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Management Accounting and Control :

Perspectives on Public Sector Governance

Edited by
Kjersti Strmme

Trondheim Business School Reports 2014:1

Trondheim 2014

Accounting &
- Perspectives on Public
Sector Governance
Papers to the workshop at Vrnes
14 - 16 October 2014
Handelshyskolen i Trondheim /
Trondheim Business School

This Trondheim Business School Report contains papers presented at the workshop 14 16 October at Vrnes.
The workshop had the following theme Management accounting and control Perspectives on Public
Sector Governance.
The workshop was hosted by HiST Handelshyskolen i Trondheim, and finance by The National
Research School in Business Economics and Administration and HiST Handelshyskolen i Trondheim.
The conference proceedings are edited by Kjersti Strmme, Senior Executive Officer at
Handelshyskolen I Trondheim.

Trondheim, November 10 2014

Professor Inger Johanne Pettersen

Irvine Lapsley
Peter Skrbk & Mark Christensen

Trond Bjrnenak
Tobias Johansson, Sven Siverbo &
Carolina Camn
Gudrun Baldvinsdottir

Elsa Solstad & Inger Johanne Pettersen

Levi Grseth-Nesbakk & Chamara Kuruppu
John Burns

Miguel Prez

Igor Khodachek & Konstantin Timoshenko

Evgenii Aleksandrov & Elena Kuznetsova

Per Christian Ahlgren

Eva Lechner
Martin Carlsson-Wall, Kalle Kraus & Johnny Lind
Kari Nyland, Charlotte Morland & John Burns

Per Stle Knardal

Performance Management in the Public Sector:

The Ultimate Challenge
Setting a performance audit agenda: The Danish
National Audit Office and Public Accounts
Committee tango
Beyond What? On the Diffusion of Beyond
The Impact of Control on Trust and Information
Sharing for Outsourced Low Contractibility
Perception of Fairness of Performance
Management System Evidence of Differences
in Attitudinal Patterns Among Lending Officers
Management at Distance The Control Gap in
Hospital Mergers?
The Other Side of Parliamentary Oversight
The Changing Landscape of Higher Education:
from Assumptions Like Students Are Not
Customers to Something Quite Different
Performance Management in Spanish Public
Hospitals: The Role of Accreditation as a Quality
Control Mechanism
Exploring Russian Government Budgeting in its
Success and Fail of Participatory Budgeting:
Comparative Study of Two Experiments in
Russian Local Governments
The Role of Accounting Inscriptions in Framing
Cross-Boundary Health Care Service Provision
Time, Money and Control: Use of Management
Controls in a Festival
Strategic Management Accounting in Close InterOrganisational Relationships
Horizontal Coordination in Hospitals: The
Interplay of Different Management Controls
across complex organizations
Budgetary Use A Case Study of a Festival

Program for the workshop

14th October

11.30 13.00
13.00 13.30

13.30 14.30

14.30 15.00
15.00 17.00



Professor Inger Johanne Pettersen
Welcome and presentation of participants

Professor Irvine Lapsley, University of Edinburg, Business School
Performance Management in the Public Sector: The Ultimate Challenge

Coffee and fruit

Peter Skrbk
Setting a performance audit agenda: the Danish National Audit Office and Public
Accounts Committee tango
John Burns, Kari Nyland, Charlotte Morland
Horizontal Co-ordination in Hospitals
Mikael Cker
One Regulation Diverse Banks
Gudrun Baldvinsdottir
What motivates high performers? A study of a mismatch between performance
evaluation system and loan officer motivation


15th October

09.00 10.00

10.00 10.30
10.30 12.30

12.30 13.30

Professor Hanne Nrreklit, rhus University/ Business School
Research for practice the role of generalisation


Sven Sivebo
The impact of control on trust and information sharing for outsourced low
contractibility activities
Trond Bjrnenak
Beyond What? - on the diffusion of Beyond Budgeting
Frode Kjrland
The story of the Terra-scandel: how could it happen?
Johnny Lind
Strategic management accounting in close inter-organisational relationships


13.30 18.15

PhD seminar Chair: Professor Irvine Lapsley

13.45 14.00

14.00 14.45

15.00 15.45

15.45 16.30

Per Stle Knardal, discussant: John Burns

Budgetary use A case study of a festival
Eva Lechner, discussant: Sven Sivebo
Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival


Evgenii Aleksandrov, discussant: Trond Bjrnenak

Success and fail of participatory budgeting: comparative study of two
experiements in Russian local governments
Igor Khodachek, discussant: Mikael Cker
Exploring Russian government budgeting in its context

16.30 16.45

Coffee and fruit

16.45 17.30

Miguel Perez, discussant: Inger Johanne Pettersen

The role of accreditation as as quality control mechanism

20.00 --


14.45 15.00

16th October

09.00 10.00

10.00 10.30
10.30 11.30

11.30 12.00

12.00 13.30

Professor John Burns, Exeter University
Financialisation in UK universities: old wine in new (screw-topped) bottles

Coffee and fruit

Elsa Solstad
Management at distance the control gap in hospital mergers?
Levi Grseth-Nesbakk
The other side of parliamentary oversight

Summing up
Professor Inger Johanne Pettersen, Trondheim Business School


Forthcoming Financial Accountability & Management, Vol.31, No.1, February,

Performance Management is the challenge confronting public service managers.
However, the enduring research focus on performance measurement in public services,
without resolution, does not offer neat solutions to performance management in public
services. This drawback of measurement difficulties has not abated interest in
performance management. But there are significant adverse outcomes associated with
the clumsy use of performance management systems in public services, particularly
negative effects on staff morale. The lack of ready-made answers to performance
management makes this task complex and demanding for public service managers.
This paper identifies critical dimensions of effectiveness in performance management
Keywords: Performance Management; Complexity; Public Services; Employee
Impacts; Management Challenges

There are relentless pressures on managers in public services to act on the quality of
their services. The idea of more with less has become a slogan, as managers seek to
maintain or improve the quality of service delivery. This phenomenon is pervasive
an international trend from which there is no escape for public service managers. This
global interest has attracted the attention of key world institutions such as the OECD
(see Perrin (2003) and Curristine (2005, 2007, 2008) on the fostering of performance
budgeting and monitoring systems) and the World Bank (see the Talbot (2010) study
of UK performance management for the World Bank as the promulgation of best
practice). And yet there is no single solution as the public sector has many variations
in scope and features in the 196 countries of the world, all shaped by economic
performance, political philosophy, the involvement of external agencies and demands
for public services (CIMA, 2011). These layers of complexity complicate, but do not
lessen the interest in, and need for, performance management systems in public

Politecnico di Milano (Michela.Arnaboldi@polimi.it)

University of Edinburgh (Irvine.Lapsley@ed.ac.uk)
Bocconi School of Management (Ileana.Steccolini@sdabocconi.it)

The financial crisis of 20072008 is still unfolding and we do not yet know its
outcome. The fiscal pressures have intensified the need for making best of use of
reduced resources in public services. This is in the midst of an uncertain environment
in which traditional paradigms for public policy have experienced policy reverses
(Coen and Roberts, 2012). However, the genesis of performance management systems
is the global impact of three decades of the new public management (NPM)
phenomenon which drives the focus on results oriented public services. The global
financial crisis has accentuated the longstanding need for effective performance
management of public services. There has been considerable research activity on
performance management systems across a range of services to the extent that we
may have a performance measurement industry (Johnsen, 2005). Nevertheless, that
research effort is diffuse and has not been consolidated into a coherent body of
thought (Broadbent and Guthrie, 2008). Indeed, the activity of performance
management has been characterised as risky for public service managers (Cuganesan
et al., 2014).
This paper contributes to the debate on performance management by offering a
nuanced interpretation of the nature of this activity in public services. First, this paper
discusses how complexity in public services may be theorised. Then it addresses the
topic of performance management in public services by examining three dimensions
of processes and impacts: (1) The key pitfall of performance management (2)
Performance technologies: An accounting problematic and (3) Performance
management in a complex setting. The paper concludes with closing comments on the
challenges facing performance management in public services and with a future
research agenda.
The public sector is widely recognised as a complex setting for study. The public
sector has been described as an area of inherent complexity (Lapsley and Skrbk,
2012), stemming from the location of managerial culture in a sector which
experiences many political influences. This, in turn, may confound managerial
discretion and complicate levels of accountability, especially in a sector which is
repeatedly reformed, with uncertain outcomes, and where expectations are high on the
delivery of social justice, social responsibility, equity in society, democratic
entitlements and pressures for social change.
So, the concept of complexity abounds in the public sector. But how can we study this
phenomenon for public services? There is now an increasing focus on the idea of the
development of complexity theory which has captured the imagination of many
researchers in public policy settings. The early work of Axelrod (1997) seeks to build
a theory of complexity of cooperation based on the classic case of the Prisoners
Dilemma. In this work, Axelrod stresses its difference from conventional inductive or
deductive theorising, in which he describes his work as a modelling to aid intuition
(Axelrod, 1997, p.4). Fundamentally, the Axelrod approach is based on simulation
and attempts to study the actions and interactions of individual agents in society and
then observe patterns which occur at the total society level (Axelrod, 1997, p.3). In
subsequent work, Axelrod collaborated with a public policy specialist, Cohen, to

address how ideas of complexity could be harnessed by organisations (Axelrod and

Cohen, 1999). They saw diversity of effort in the study of complexity, but also
identified recurring themes which informed their framework which they describe as a
unified view of complexity studies for the analysis of complexity in organisations
(Axelrod and Cohen, 1999, p.18). In this elaboration of their approach they made the
following observation (Axelrod and Cohen, 1999, p.19):
complexity research does not make detailed predictions. Rather it is a framework
that suggests new kinds of questions and possible actions.
The complexity theory framework as elaborated by Axelrod and Cohen (1999,
passim) had the following elements:

Complex adaptive systems

Co-evolution (and self organization?)
Dynamic systems
Non-linear relationships
Emergent properties
Edge of chaos (and strange attractors?)

The concepts in italics refer to common elements in contemporary complexity theory

which were not explicitly mentioned by Axelrod and Cohen (1999). The complex
adaptive systems are those in which agents and or populations actively seek to make
adaptations (Axelrod and Cohen, 1999, p.7). This is a building block in their analysis.
The idea of co-evolution is the way in which the actions of some change agents may
spill over and affect the practices of other agents. This is a process which may never
settle down (Axelrod and Cohen, 1999, p.8). The related concept of self organisation
refers to the manner in which agents within organisations can shape the nature of the
organisation by their actions and interactions. While this concept was not explicitly
included in the Axelrod and Cohen framework, it is entirely consistent with their
elaboration of dynamic agents in systems. The dynamic systems feature of complexity
often arises because of the varieties of agents at work in organisations and in total
systems (Axelrod and Cohen, op.cit., p.32). The non-linearity of systems means that
small actions can lead to disproportionate larger differences in subsequent actions
(Axelrod and Cohen, op.cit. p.36). The idea of emergent properties is that systems
may exhibit traits which are distinct to the system and which are not a characteristic
of the individual parts of the system (Axelrod and Cohen, op.cit. p15). The idea of the
edge of chaos refers to interactions between organisations and their environment,
which exist in a delicate balance between order and chaos. This phenomenon occurs
as evolutionary systems structure interaction patterns to achieve a balance between
exploration and exploitation (Axelrod and Cohen, op.cit. p.72). A related idea which
features in current thinking on complexity theory is the strange attractor. This idea is
often attributed to the work of Lorenz (1995). In complex systems the initial starting
conditions can influence the dynamics of interactions, but as systems evolve they may
be attracted to other properties (or attractors). The strange attractor is particularly
complex: chaos may be present, but strange non-chaotic properties may also coexist at
the same time and point.
This set of concepts in complexity theory underlines its systemic approach to the
study of phenomena. This approach to the study of complexity is an endeavour to take

a holistic look, not only at the system dynamics, but also at the constituent parts of
systems. This systems thinking is a distinctive feature of modern complexity theory.
While this theorising originated in the natural sciences and has been used in, for
example, forecasting weather patterns, there is a movement recommending its use in
the social sciences. This use includes public administration (Klijn, 2008), public
management (Teisman et al., 2009; Rhodes et al., 2011) and public policy (Geyer and
Rihani, 2010; Room, 2011; Haynes, 2012).
While there are advocates of the merits of complexity theory in the investigation of
the management of public services (Lin and Lee, 2011), reservations can be expressed
over its mobilisation in this study setting. In the first instance, this thinking originated
in the natural sciences and there remain questions over the applicability of models
derived from natural to social sciences. The translation of ideas from different
disciplines introduces the likelihood of misrepresentation or misinterpretation or
ambiguity. This seems particularly likely with a theory which introduces concepts
with names like edge of chaos, strange attractors, co-evolution, all of which look
particularly susceptible to managerial capture and reinterpretation. Another dimension
of this is whether there is indeed a unified theory of complexity theory. Klijn (2008)
identified complexity theory as a collection of different theories: complex adaptive
systems; dissipative structures; autopoiesis theory; chaos theory; path dependencies.
However, Klijn did acknowledge the commonalities of systems thinking and nonlinearity. The significance of Klijns observations is that they intensify the potential
for misrepresentation or misinterpretation of complexity theory. The Klijn critique has
attracted observations that the underlying model of complexity theory offers a theory
which needs to be tested empirically and which does not lend itself to such testing
(Pollitt, 2009). There are proponents of complexity theory who see the idea of self
organisation as a basis for enhanced democracy in public organisations (Blackman,
2001), but this does not sit well with the realpolitik of centralised control and a results
focus in many governmental settings. There is also concern over the tensions between
complexity theory and the need for evidence-based policy to inform policy making in
public services (Parsons, 2002). More importantly, there is a deterministic tendency
within systems thinking which does not sit well with the highly influential view of
postmodernism, which emphasises social construction, the frailty of causality, the
importance of power relationships, stresses the relational and interpretive nature of
human activity, the proliferation of the contested nature of knowledge and ideas (see
Best and Kellner, 1991, passim).
Therefore the application of complexity theory is not so self-evident or
straightforward as it might appear. While complexity theory has not been advocated
specifically to examine performance management in public services, it has been
recommended for the study of the closely related phenomenon of NPM (Lin and Lee,
2011). This is an important area of research which we mobilise to test it out below in
the challenges facing performance management in a complex public service setting
and which we reflect on in our conclusion.
The single largest pitfall for performance management systems in public service
organisations is a negative side-effect which undermines the motivation, morale and


behaviour of human resources. The key resource in many public services is their
human capital the staff employed, their expertise, their capacity for problem solving
and policy implementation. There are distinct, adverse outcomes for the human
dimension of performance management. This paper examines research on this facet of
performance management, which traces human resource issues arising from its
implementation. The most trenchant critique of the adverse impact of NPM on public
service staff is made by Diefenbach (2009). Diefenbach (2009, p.905) made the
following observation:
NPMs impact on employees and corporate culture of public sector organizations
comprises a whole range of negative psycho-sociological and organisational effects,
such as: increase in occupational stress, illness, low morale, decline in job satisfaction
and motivation, alienation, fear, resentment, the distorting intellectual effects of
writing for audit, a competitive, adversarial and punitive ethos, as well as wasteful,
stressful, over-bureaucratic, and expensive audit procedures, increased tensions, more
distrust between people, forms of symbolic violence and institutional bullying, a
rougher working climate, an invisible net of managerial power and domination.
There is a body of literature which supports this critique of NPM impacts on
employees. The primacy accorded to audit in the NPM world has led to Powers
famous observation that we now live in an audit society (1997) in which the need to
respond to audit controls, procedures and practices can shape the day-to-day life of
organisations. This has the deleterious consequences of additional work and the
subsequent displacement of the primary purpose of organisations so affected. In this
NPM world, organisations grapple with the bureaucracy of the audit society, in which
boxes must be ticked to demonstrate compliance with diktats whether this compliance
is for real or merely legitimating activity (Arnaboldi and Lapsley, 2008; Lapsley,
2009). The roles and expectations of performance auditors continue to grow (Funnell,
Within a variety of public services there is evidence of the adverse impact of NPM
reforms on employee welfare. One such service is policing where new managerialism
has increased workload and pressure on officers (Butterfield et al, 2004, p.176). This
has led to a significant majority of UK police officers reporting stress and overwork
(UNISON, 2014). The corporate language of mission, commitment and strategy in
public services is claimed to sit uneasily with, and promote disillusion in, public
services which experience cost reductions with increased job insecurity, larger class
sizes, fewer nurses (Hoggett, 1996). In health and social services, NPM reforms have
resulted in increased intensity of work practices, with fewer staff, increasing levels of
stress, demoralised staff, high absenteeism and labour turnover (Kirkpatrick et al.,
2005, p.98, p.120). Although Kirkpatrick et al. (2005, p.150) do report that workers
within social housing have more readily embraced the managerialism (its language, its
logic) of NPM.
Within universities, the advent of NPM has resulted in a more adversarial working
environment (Newton, 2003, p.434) in which tolerance for independent thinking by
academics and collegiality is marginalised by management agendas (Saunders, 2006).
The NPM focus on quantification and results has spawned a wide range of metrics
within universities including measures of quality (Pettersen, 2015). It has been
suggested that these are mobilised to manage and control academics (Burrows, 2012).


These metrics include citations, workload models, research assessments, teaching

quality assessments and league tables for university activities and performances,
including commercial activities. Gill (2010, p.228) has observed that the impact of
this managerial regime has had wide ranging adverse effects:
Many academics are exhausted, stressed, overloaded, suffering from insomnia,
feeling anxious, experiencing feelings of shame, aggression, guilt, hurt and out of
It has been suggested that this state of affairs is widespread in universities as part of a
deep, affective somatic crisis which threatens to overwhelm us (Burrows, 2012,
p.355). It has been observed that the strength of this phenomenon is such that
academics have been unable to challenge a universal focus on calculative practice and
audit culture in universities stemming from NPM practices (Shore, 2008). This
primacy accorded to performance management systems is attributed to NPM thinking,
in which managerial elites have a vested interest in legitimising an audit culture
focussed on constant assessment at the expense of collegiality and scholarship (Craig
et al., 2014).
The above observations demonstrate the potential negative outcomes when public
organisations implement clumsy performance management systems which are not
geared to the key human actors engaged in the delivery of services. On balance it
should be noted that the policy design and implementation intensity of NPM varies
between countries, and that much of the literature and research is scarce when it
comes to studies of net effects of NPM reforms including performance management
(Bouckaert and Halligan 2008; Helden, Johnsen and Vakkuri 2012; Pollitt and
Bouckaert 2011). Next we comment on the range and quality of tools available to
public service managers.
For the managers there are significant problems in the selection of management tools
to mobilise in the name of performance management (see for example, Hope and
Player (2012)). The quality of available techniques is a particular problem for public
service managers. There have been various attempts at devising models of
performance management. These include the idea of global measure of performance.
The failure to achieve this and the difficulties of operationalising the resultant partial
performance indicators are discussed below. The classic Anglo-American NPM
approach of seeking appropriate private sector models has led to the introduction of
Benchmarking, the Balanced Scorecard and Lean Management into many public
services, with mixed results. These initiatives resonate with the classic phenomenon
of following the latest managerial fads and fashions (Abrahamson, 1996). The early
attempted solution of managerial checklists as a reductionist treatment of complexity
is revived here and considered as a potential way forward for public services. The
range of commonly used tools in public services performance management is set out
in Table 1. We identify 5 such possibilities for public service managers and as Table 1
shows there is no obvious choice from the set of available technologies. Each of these
approaches to performance management is discussed, next


Table 1: Performance Management Technologies

Key Attributes
Budgetary Control
Traditional Accounting
KPIs & Benchmarking
Partial performance
indicators in comparable
Balanced Scorecard
The Harvard model of
performance management

Lean Management


Managerial Checklists

The Toyota Production

An exercise in

Crude, limited
What gets
measured gets
Identifies multiple
dimensions but is
over specified
Negative side
Susceptible to box
ticking legitimation

1. Budgetary Control as a Performance Tool

The first technology identified in Table 1 is budgeting. This inclusion is recognition
of the significance of the accounting function within public service organisations. It is
also recognition of the longstanding centrality of the budgetary process in public
sector organisations (Henley et al., 1992, p.56). However, while tradition, the size of
public sector organisations and the level of sophistication in financial management
may lead public service organisations to rely on budgets for performance control, this
option has many disadvantages. This technology ignores non-financial performance
indicators and can therefore be seen as very narrowly focussed on financials. In this
way, the budget can be seen as offering crude cost control. However, the reluctance to
refine the historical budget setting practices of public sector organisations by adopting
activity-based measures undermines the rigour of budgets. Furthermore the
achievement of budgetary equilibrium may be seen as a kind of success, but it is
limited. The achievement of balancing the books does not equate to meeting all
service demands nor does it mean the organisation has operated efficiently. However,
the downside of all this is that whatever performance management system is
implemented within any public sector organisation, it will have to relate to the budget
system given its centrality in the life of the public sector organisation, a facet of
performance management which is often overlooked and is neither simple nor
2. Private Sector Technologies for Performance Management
The next three technologies in Table 1 all fit the fads and fashions (Abrahamson,
1995) idea of management diffusion. All of them have private sector origins:
Benchmarking came from Rank Xerox (Cross and Iqbal, 1995); the Balanced
Scorecard came from Analog Devices, an electronics company (Schneiderman,
undated); and Lean Management came from Toyota, the Japanese car manufacturer
(Womack et al., 1990). The practice of looking to the private sector for management
ideas is a fundamental element of NPM. The appropriateness of this practice is


contestable, given the difficulties of translation from the private to the public sector.
In the following sections each of these private sector imports is discussed and then we
revisit the idea of managerial checklists.
In this paper we link Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Benchmarking as
technologies of a similar vintage, which are used in concert. They can both be seen as
technologies which have emerged in response to the lack of the commercial bottom
line for performance assessment in public services. Efforts to mobilise value for
money or the 3Es of economy, efficiency and effectiveness as a bottom line have
failed to deliver a global model of performance measurement (see, for example,
National Audit Office (1988), FEE (undated), Mayston (1985)). Efforts to devise a
public sector bottom line have degenerated into the generation of many partial
performance indicators (Lapsley and Pong, 2000). The relationship of these partial
indicators is not self-evident in many cases, without a hierarchy of performance
indicators which form an articulate statement of performance. The decision to identify
KPIs for performance assessment focuses on what can be measured rather than
necessarily capturing key dimensions of organisational performance (Bevan and Hood,
2006). The forced nature of this selection process and the arbitrary manner of choices
made is captured by the following statement by an elected member of a legislative
assembly (cited in Ezzamel et al., 2007):
We are fabulous at firing arrows at walls, drawing targets around them and then
saying it was a brilliant shot.
The shift from organisations devising their own KPIs to a benchmarking arrangement
in which comparable organisations are identified in which performance information is
exchanged creates further complexity. While public service organisations are not in
competition and therefore open, in principle, to sharing performance information,
there have been difficulties from the beginning in identifying appropriate comparators,
focussing on performance and embracing the concept of benchmarking (Bowerman et
al., 2000; Bowerman et al., 2001). This concept of the contested field in which actors
own interests prevail over a common or shared purpose remains a major obstacle to
effective benchmarking (Siverbo, 2014).
The Balanced Scorecard has achieved widespread interest in the public sector in the
last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century. This
technology was claimed to be first devised in the electronics firm, Analog Devices, by
Schneiderman (Schneiderman undated) and subsequently developed by Kaplan and
Norton (1992, 1993). The attraction of this technology was its focus which was
broader than narrow financials by including consideration of financials, internal
processes, customers and learning. This configuration appeared to offer a
comprehensive basis for linking corporate financial planning and strategic planning,
unlike the proliferation of partial and so called key performance indicators. However,
this particular management fashion has started to encounter considerable criticism.
Notably, the Balanced Scorecard has been criticised because its four dimensions
understate the complexity of many organisations (especially in public services) and it
offers little more than lists of metrics (Norreklit, 2000). Also it has been argued that
the key dimensions in the Balanced Scorecard are not as tightly coupled as they
appear in the writings of Kaplan and Norton (Modell, 2004). A scrutiny of 20 years of
research studies of Balanced Scorecard systems reveals implementation difficulties


with little integration with accounting information systems (Hoque, 2014). While the
Balanced Scorecard has had immense popular appeal, it looks like this management
fad is now, or may be becoming, out of fashion.
Lean Management, however, has become the choice of performance management
technology of many public services. This is somewhat surprising as Lean
Management is an earlier technology than both Benchmarking and the Balanced
Scorecard as it was developed by Toyota in the 1960s (Womack et al., 1990) as the
Toyota Performance System (TPS). Within the UK the pressure of more with less
has led to widespread attempts at Lean Management in universities, hospitals and
health care, and local government. At the centre of the TPS are the concepts of the
standardisation of work into repeatable processes and the elimination of unnecessary
stages in the production process to eliminate waste and reduce costs in a process of
continuous improvement. A report commissioned by the Scottish Government argued
that Lean Management was applicable to the public sector (Radnor et al., 2006).
Government ministers have identified the potential of Lean Thinking in reducing
public sector waste (Murden, 2006). Universities UK (2011, p.37) has acknowledged
what it regards as the successful use of Lean Management in universities and
advocates its wider use. Health care has been at the forefront as a suitable case for
Lean Management. It has been argued that there is no lack of resources in health care
and the core issue is the uniform application of best practices to reduce costs and
increase quality. The TPS is ideal for this purpose and the UK NHS Institute for
Innovation and Improvement has developed guidance on Lean Thinking for health
care managers (NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, 2013).
However, the rapid spread of Lean Management has been questioned on a number of
levels. There have been reservations about the efficacy of Lean Management at
Toyota. In particular concerns have been expressed that the constant focus on cost
reduction has affected the safety of their vehicles. On February 3 2010, Chris
Lastrella, an off duty Highway Policeman in California was driving his Toyota Lexus
with his family on board when the accelerator pedal jammed (Frean and Lee, 2010).
All of the car occupants were killed in the ensuing crash. There were a further 30
reported deaths in the US from sudden unintended acceleration on Toyota vehicles at
this time (Frean and Lewis, 2010). At a subsequent hearing of the US Congressional
Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Roy LaHood, the US Transport
Secretary said Toyota was safety deaf and Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the Toyota
company founder apologised for the accidents (Frean and Lewis, 2010). However, a
senior US executive challenged Toyotas handling of safety issues as it expanded its
operations (Lewis, 2010). These outcomes undermine the application of Lean
Thinking as a relentless driver for cost reduction without due consideration for other
important issues such as safety.
There are other concerns over the application of Lean Management in public services.
There are issues over the portability of lean how many public services are like car
factories? Also many public services exhibit high levels of interdependence in service
delivery which may confound the standardisation of public services. By focussing on
segments of public service organisations, local star optima may be devised which do
not yield overall improvement. There is evidence of a high failure rate for Lean
Management in the National Health Service (NHS) which may be attributed to the
lack of supportive information systems at project level, inter-unit level and


organisational level (Kinder and Burgoyne, 2013). More fundamentally, it has been
suggested that the Lean Management approach adopted within the UK public sector is
doomed to failure, in theory and practice, given its piecemeal application without an
overarching service model to inform its adoption and design (Radnor and Osborne,
3. Managerial Checklists
The final strand of performance technologies which we discuss here, is the use of
managerial checklists. At one level this might be seen as a relatively unsophisticated
management tool. For example, an early attempt at devising a managerial checklist for
performance management was Jackson (1988). Jackson introduced 9 key concepts for
managers to manage performance. Some of these are beyond criticism (consistency,
comparability, clarity, controllability) but others are in contradiction (comprehensive
versus bounded). While this contribution is well intended it lacks precision, is not
readily operational and, most importantly, it looks susceptible to the tick box
mentality of the Audit Society (Power, 1997).
A more promising offering is the managerial checklist from Likierman (1993). This is
a somewhat neglected study. Likiermans work is based on a three year research
project in which 500 middle and senior public services managers were interviewed.
All of those interviewed were managers who used performance indicators. This paper
looks at performance from multiple dimensions, looking at the trajectory of
performance systems through the concepts underpinning the system, the preparation
of the system, the implementation and the use of performance information. This study
was not fully exploited as its completion coincided with the author becoming a senior
member of the UK Government Civil Service. However, this study offers a potential
way forward. It points to the need for evidence based studies rather than the
fragmented policy of snatching at the latest management fashion as the solution to
performance management.
The complex setting analysed in this paper is the UK NHS. The NHS has an immense
workforce of many different health care professionals and sits firmly within those
public services which have human capital as a key resource, as outlined in the third
section of this paper. In terms of technologies of performance management, budgetary
control remains a central mechanism for the NHS. There has been some limited use of
the Balanced Scorecard in the NHS, but there has been more sustained use of KPIs
and benchmarking and for the past few years there has been a strong use of Lean
Management. In terms of the NHS as a study setting, Lapsley and Schofield (2009)
highlight the complexity of the UKs NHS, which makes it of particular interest for
public service performance management. This includes the distinctive origins and
ethos of the NHS and their financial implications. The density of NHS organisation
and the scope of the services which it delivers, also present difficult challenges for
financial planning and control. The sheer scale of NHS operations, with it often being
considered one of, if not the, largest organisation in the world, presents significant
challenges for financial accountability and control. There is also the fundamental
issue of the efficacy of a national health care system funded from general taxation.
These general contextual issues heighten the complexity of the NHS but other factors


at work impinge directly on NHS performance management, as Lapsley and Schofield

(op.cit. p.367) express it:
Furthermore, and particularly in times of financial restraint, the existence or
otherwise of formal or informal rationing systems in health care presents significant
ethical and financial dilemmas. Most importantly, the enhanced visibility and
significance of accounting numbers and performance measures in NHS management
processes and accountability mechanisms over the course of its life continues to
attract the attention of researchers.
This is the context which we use to illustrate the challenges confronting performance
management in public services. It is interesting to note that a number of complexity
theory advocates have identified health care as a suitable context for study (Arndt and
Bigelow, 2000; Geyer and Rihani, 2010; Rhodes et al., 2011) and performance
management in health care is as complex and elusive as ever (Chang, 2015; Kelly et
al., 2015).
It was noted above that in many public services, what can get measured gets counted
(Bevan and Hood, 2006) and this can form the basis of performance management
systems and this is the case with the NHS. The key performance measure in recent
years has been the use of waiting lists for patients in need of health care treatment.
Successive governments have set targets for achieving reductions in waiting lists. The
waiting list is a capacity utilisation indicator, which may appear sensible in a service
which is free at the point of use and for which there is an excess demand in the
absence of a pricing system. However, there is a longstanding critique of waiting list
indicators as soft performance targets which are easy to manipulate. In his critique,
Williams (1985) raised questions over the criteria by which patients are admitted to
lists, the uniformity of such criteria across the NHS, the frequency with which they
are updated, the discretion in the alteration and admission of patients in targets.
In this section of this paper we examine the experiences of two health care
organisations in the NHS: (1) Lothian Health, and (2) Mid Staffordshire NHS
Foundation Trust. The experiences of these health care bodies resonate with the
Diefenbach (2009) critique of NPM type performance management systems.
(1) Lothian Health
In the National Health Service in Scotland, Health Boards have targets that specify
that 90% of their patients must be treated within 18 weeks of referral by their general
practitioner. At Lothian Health, there was a major inquiry initiated by the Cabinet
Secretary for Health over claims in the press from a whistleblower that Lothian
Health was routinely manipulating its waiting list numbers. This report was prepared
by PWC for the Scottish Government (Scottish Government Directorate, 2012). Its
findings confirmed the systematic manipulation of waiting list information. As a
public entity the governance mechanisms at Lothian Health included both a
management and a board (with lay persons appointed by the Cabinet Secretary) to
oversee its activities. The Board also had a Finance and Performance Review
Committee (FPRC) drawn from its membership, which reported to the board. Within
the management team there was an Executive Management Team (EMT) at the
highest level, which reported to the Board and this top management tier had a Senior


Management Team which reported to EMT. Beneath the Senior Management Group
there are the departments and hospital specialties. Each month a Performance
Management Report was prepared by NHS Lothian as a standard agenda item for all
four parts of Lothian Health governance structure as outlined above. This report stated
(op.cit, p.17) that:
The EMT, the Board and the FPRC were not presented with a comprehensive picture
of waiting time management or data, for example, as there is an absence of any detail
on periods of unavailability data or full waiting list size. In addition there is no trend
analysis of performance.
The absence of this information hindered the EMT and the FPRC in making informed
decisions on waiting list issues and the Board may not have been able to identify that
there was an issue (op.cit, p.17).
The lack of information presented to the top was based on routine manipulation of
waiting list figures. The PWC investigation (Scottish Government Directorate, 2012,
p.5) highlighted this:
...highlighted excessive and inappropriate use (and apparent misuse) of periods of
patient unavailability, in particular retrospective creations and changes, which
removed patients from waiting times breach (i.e. missing target) reports. This
inappropriate use has masked the number of breaches (failures to meet targets)
reported at a number of month ends and has resulted in certain patient journeys being
longer than have been formally reported.
These inappropriate adjustments involved offering patients treatment in England at
short notice and if they refused they were removed from waiting lists. There was also
lots of retrospective alteration, manually, of patient records. For example, this report
(Scottish Government Directorate, 2012, p.6) identified examples of this:
On 30 May 2011 (just before breach or target failure reporting) a member of staff
made 124 amendments to periods of unavailability, retrospectively, and then on 1 July
2011 (just before target failure reporting) another member of staff made 154
amendments to periods of unavailability, retrospectively, between 0800am and
It is also noteworthy that many managers in Lothian Health received detailed waiting
list information from weekly waiting time position reports but this information was
not included in formal reports to the EMT, the FPRC or the Board.
How did this happen? Interestingly, given the Diefenbach (2009) critique of bullying
resonates with other findings in this report. It observed that many of these staff
members were put under unacceptable pressure to manipulate waiting list figures in a
culture of no bad news about waiting list figures (Scottish Government Health
Directorate, 2012, p.21).
However, senior figures within Lothian responded strongly to these suggestions
(Lothian Health, 2012):


Bullying and harassment have never been tolerated in NHS Lothian and we will be
following up immediately any claims of this through our own internal inquiry, which
is already far advanced (Chief Executive), and:
We do not tolerate any form of bullying and harassment and this is monitored by
annual surveys. This is a message sent out to all employees when they join us and any
time such behaviour is proven we are robust in tackling it (Director of Human
However, despite such protestations, the Cabinet Secretary for Health initiated a
further report into the management culture at Lothian. This report confirmed a
bullying management culture at Lothian which manifested itself in an extreme form
around the performance management of waiting list targets (D.J. Bowles and
Associates, 2012). In this report there are comments by members of staff which
illustrate the nature of this bullying culture (D.J. Bowles and Associates, op. cit., p.19,
Some senior managers bully us with constant targets, targets, targets shouting and
relentless pressure
A macho culture that has lasted for some time
Shocking an atmosphere of fear
There is a blame culture, particularly for senior managers and I see it cascade and
leak out to the lower graded staff
If you dont reach your targets, you can collect your P45 ( i.e. lose your job)
Those of you with mortgages and career aspirations had better be afraid.
The report by Bowles and Associates (op.cit.) described this as a dominant culture
(p.21) in which the general leadership and management style is based on command
and control (p.19) in which there is an almost total concentration on targets and the
tasks required to achieve them (p.19) and in which there is an emphasis on targets
and predominantly autocratic leadership. This report also observed that the
obsessive focus on targets for performance management meant that the organisation
had lost sight of policy objectives (op.cit, p36).
Despite these reports, Lothian Health has just reported yet more difficulties over
waiting list targets (Pickles, 2014). Indeed, Lothian Health has longstanding
difficulties over the achievement of waiting list targets for many years. There are
distinct circumstances which accentuate this problem. There are the general issues of
a system which is stretched by no pricing or rationing systems. There are the
increasing numbers of elderly patients with multiple medical conditions. Perhaps most
importantly Lothian Health is a regional centre of excellence with world leading
medical specialists which always seem to attract more referrals than they can handle.
The major issue here is the way complex systems are reduced to simple performance
systems with all manner of deleterious consequences, particularly for staff
implementing them.


(2) Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust

There have been two major, highly critical reports published on Mid Staffordshire
NHS Foundation Trust, the report of an Independent Inquiry (Francis, 2010) and the
report of a public inquiry (Francis, 2013). These follow other critical reports by
oversight bodies in health care. The initial concerns over the management and quality
of care at Mid Staffordshire were aroused by mortality rates which were significantly
worse than at other hospitals (Health Care Commission, 2009), which observed
In this report, we have drawn together the different strands of numerous, wideranging and serious findings about the trust which, when brought together, we
consider amount to significant failings in the provision of emergency healthcare and
in the leadership and management of the trust.
Concerns expressed by patients and patients families led to the Secretary of State for
Health establishing the first Independent Inquiry (Francis, 2010). A subsequent
Secretary of State for Health commissioned a second, public inquiry to be led by
Robert Francis (Francis, 2013). In addition to the concerns over mortality rates, these
reports were extremely critical of the poor quality of patient care. The following
instances (Francis, 2013, para 23, p.13) illustrate the woeful standards of patient care:
1. Patients were left in excrement in soiled bed clothes for lengthy periods
2. Assistance was not provided with feeding for patients who could not eat
without help
3. Water was left out of reach
4. In spite of persistent requests for help, patients were not assisted in their
5. Wards and toilet facilities were left in a filthy condition
6. Privacy and dignity, even in death, were denied
7. Triage in A&E was undertaken by untrained staff
8. Staff treated patients and those close to them with what appeared to be callous
How did an NHS hospital ever sink to such low standards of care? The Francis
Reports (2010, 2013) identify a culture in which the needs of patients were, at best
marginalised, and in which the management of this hospital gave primacy to
performance targets and to good news stories. The following extract illustrates this
point (Francis, 2013, p.43):
Those with the most clear and close responsibility for ensuring that a safe and good
standard of care was provided to patients in Stafford, namely the Board and other
leaders in the Trust, failed to appreciate the enormity of what was happening, reacted
too slowly, if at all, to some matters of concern of which they were aware, and
downplayed the significance of others. In the first report, this was attributed in large
part to an engrained culture of tolerance of poor standards, a focus on finance and
targets, denial of concerns, and isolation from practice, elsewhere. Nothing I have
heard in this Inquiry (i.e. the Public Inquiry) suggests that this analysis was wrong.
Indeed the evidence (from the Public Inquiry) has only reinforced it.


The above critique of the negative impact of performance management on the central
mission of this hospital trust is accentuated by its good news culture which sought to
negate or play down setbacks and celebrate whatever minor successes were
experienced. A further extract from the Francis Report (2013, p.44) underlines the
insensitivity of management in its handling of challenges:
The Trust culture was one of self promotion rather than critical analysis and
openness. This can be seen from the way the Trust approached its Foundation Trust
application, its approach to high Hospital Standardised Mortality Rates and its
inaccurate self declaration of its own performance. It took false assurance from good
news, and yet tolerated or sought to explain away bad news.
Despite the management preoccupation with financial matters to the exclusion of
standards of patient care, this hospital trust managed to survive numerous reports
from a variety of oversight bodies (Francis 2013, pp48-64), which challenged its
fundamental practices of health care. Yet this hospital trust managed to stagger on like
a zombie organisation, still focussing on its performance targets, before it was closed.
This adverse impact of performance management systems goes beyond the
Diefenbach (2009) critique which identifies adverse impacts on staff rather than the
totality of the organisation and those it has a duty of care for. It could be discussed
whether the adverse effects were the results of a flawed performance management
system designed and used too much for financial matters and too little for
performance, an incompetent management, a dysfunctional organisational culture, or
a combination of all these issues. Using the lenses of complexity theory one could
describe this case as a complex adaptive system organising itself top-down into a
system with emerging properties crossing the edge of chaos. In effect, the Mid
Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust may have had too little performance
management rather than too much.
The initial starting point in this section was the implicit reference by Lapsley and
Schofield (2009) to health care as a complex adaptive system. Rhodes et al. (2011,
p.112) deploy complexity theory to demonstrate how health care information systems
can be modelled as a complex adaptive system. Also, Geyer and Rihani (2010,
pp101103) see the above kinds of adverse outcomes as an inevitable consequence of
policy makers viewing the complex NHS as a mechanistic system which can be
controlled from the centre. This approach fails to recognise the modernisers proposing
cycled and recycled reforms through a single attractor, which limits the organisation
in self organisation and co-evolution.
There is a clear need for effective performance management systems in public
services. The NPM modernisers see this as a way of providing public services more
efficiently. The era of austerity has reinforced the need for more effective
management of performance. Yet, despite the very significant efforts by key actors
within public services and by related agencies and experts, there is no unanimity on
what constitutes best practice. Indeed, this paper has documented significant failures
of existing practices when managers become so obsessed with managerial targets and


appearance that they lose sight of the more fundamental issues of organisational
mission and performance. This paper suggests that the underlying dimension which
makes performance management so difficult is the sheer complexity of, and the often
over-simplistic approach to performance management in the public sector.
This paper has elaborated upon the potential of complexity theory to be mobilised by
researchers within public services management to address the nature of public sector
complexity and its impact on performance management.This conclusion is not
without caveats as the origins, aims and expectations of complexity theorists may
differ from the realities of policy making in everyday life. However, this perspective
offers a definite research agenda for empirical studies of performance management
practice, as set out below.






For performance management to be effective it must mitigate or eliminate the

negative side effects on the key resource of human capital. There is scope for
exploratory research in study settings where successful performance
managements appear to operate to determine where and how this advance
might be made.
Much of the extant literature on performance management tools and
technologies seems to be based on specific applications of particular practices.
There is much to be gained from closely grained case studies of practice. But
it would be interesting to see studies which undertook a more holistic
evaluation of performance management by paying attention to the details and
instability of systems. Such investigation potentially opens the way for
developing a new, specific, framework for examining performance
management in the public sector.
In their writing Axelrod and Cohen (1999) refer to complexity theory as an aid
to thinking. It would be interesting to see if managers of public services can
relate to and make sense of the ideas in complexity theory in their everyday
tasks. There is scope for experimental work in this area.
Within an era of rapid technological development the role of social media
which gives free access to global web communication to every individual
thereby opening opportunities and risks for the public sector. The role of
social media in enlisting, enrolling and mobilising different perspectives on
how public services are delivered and performance managed offers a fruitful
area of research.
There is a longstanding issue within public services of remuneration, reward
and incentives for exceptional performance. This is an important element of
performance management and needs careful evaluation in work on public
Within many public services there are many short-term pressures to deliver.
There is scope for the receptivity and feasibility of longer planning horizons in
future performance management modelling.
Within performance management in public services there is silence on
management what it is and what it means. This paper suggests that
performance management in public services is more complex than in other
settings such as non-profit or private sector activities. Yet there is a
presumption within existing literature that the effective public manager


exists and will deliver. This is a key part of performance management which
merits careful research and analysis.
In addition to the above agenda focussed on performance management practices, there
is scope for further theoretical research in this area. In particular we suggest the
following issues:
1. Complexity theory builds on the idea of agents within systems who detect the
need for change and cluster to make change happen. Within this thinking the
idea of the agent appears to presume homogeneity. Research on the manner in
which agents act in complex adaptive systems merits careful evaluation.
2. The raison d`etre of complex adaptive systems in complexity theory is an
aversion to what is perceived as a mechanistic concept of how organisations
function. However, the top down, command and control model reflects the
need to deliver successful policy outcomes. It may be argued that this does not
achieve its objective. But the self organisation, bottom up thinking in
complexity theory needs to be reconciled with realpolitik for policy makers to
endorse its use.
3. There are strands of complexity theory which resonate with other ideas within
the social sciences which have been used widely in the public sphere. This
includes the idea of the street level bureaucrat which mirrors the purposeful
agents depicted in complexity theory. Another example is isomorphism which
has parallels with ideas of co-evolution. The idea of unintended consequences
features too. There is scope for the study of this phenomenon to see if a
melding of different approaches may be feasible.
This paper suggests that performance management is a big challenge facing public
services. It is the intention of this paper not only to encourage a rethink of existing
practices to avoid the negative side effects documented in this paper, but to encourage
researchers to undertake more nuanced research in this most difficult, complex,
testing area for researchers and practitioners alike.
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Setting a performance audit agenda: the Danish National Audit Office and Public
Accounts Committee tango

Peter Skrbk
Mark Christensen


The Danish Public Accounts Committee (DPAC) is amongst the worlds oldest
parliamentary account oversight committees, having been established in 1849. The
longevity of the DPACs existence and the strength of its continued importance
during that history are testaments to its significance in a society that now prides itself
as being one with high levels of transparency (Williams, 2014). This chapter analyses
how the DPAC and the National Audit Office of Denmark (NAOD) interrelate with
each other in the acquittal of transparency of government in the performance audit
regime1. It is within this field that we find an intricate interface between political
controversy and audit standard malleability forming a tango of relations and identities
around the enduring complexity of how Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) and
oversight bodies behave in the intertwined flux of SAI independence, audit quality,
and parliamentary oversight of the audit function. In providing this analysis, a
contribution is made to understandings of institutional arrangements between
parliamentary transparency mechanisms.

The singularly important concept in the discussion of the DPAC and NAOD (and
indeed this book) is that of SAI independence. Since the INTOSAI Mexico
Declaration regarding independence, good practice has been prescribed by ISSAI 10
(INTOSAI, 2007). However, as noted in various studies, compliance to ISSAI 10 is

The term performance audit (forvaltningsrevision in Danish) is described by the NAODs website
to include large audits and progressive audits. We do not pursue that distinction but instead limit our
enquiries to non-financial audits.


not uniform and at least 60 variables (Robertson, 2013) can be tested to assess
compliance so achievement of absolute independence can be considered as a holy
grail for auditors, auditees and oversight bodies. Nevertheless, the degree of
executive influence over exercise of audit powers is the core of independence and
Thomas (2003, p. 297) identifies five structural features of independence in a
parliamentary system that can assist to narrow our focus:

The nature of the agency, including how it is defined initially and how it is
updated periodically;

The provisions respecting the appointment, tenure and removal of the

leadership of the agency;

The process for deciding budgets and staffing for the agency;

Whether the agency is free to identify issues for study and whether it can
compel the production of information; and

The reporting requirements for the agency and whether its performance is

For the purposes of assessing SAI independence, Thomas five features can be
distilled into three primary issues, as are reflected in many Auditor-General Acts
around the world. For example, these three features are captured in Section 7 of the
Western Australia Auditor-General Act, 2007: the Auditor General is not subject to
direction from anyone in relation to whether a particular audit is conducted, how it is
conducted or what is included in an audit report. To those three aspects of
independence can be added the issue of SAI conduct such that it avoids involvement
in system change in order to be free of consequential bias for future audits. In the
DPAC-NAOD relationship, we see institutional elements that are not in the normative
prescription for SAI independence and as a result we set out to determine if public
sector performance audit in Denmark is affected by issues related to the NAODs

The chapter utilizes the following structure: first it presents an overview of the DPAC
and its relationship with the NAOD; second, having identified potential reasons to
question the independence of the NAOD, the chapter examines evidence relevant to
that issue and does so using a macro-view of the performance audit portfolio before
examining secondary sources in a form of meta-analysis of relevant literature; third, a


discussion is provided to better understand how the tango of relations impacts on the
reality of practise within Danish performance audit; finally, the chapter concludes and
provides some suggestions for fruitful further research.

A Danish conquest: an oversight capture of independence

According to the Danish Constitution, Parliament appoints the members of the
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to carry out the audit of the Danish public
accounts. Statsrevisorerne, 2012, p. 3). This extract from the Preamble of the
DPACs official English-language overview of itself provides a simple encapsulation
of the DPACs vision that it is the ultimate auditor of the Danish public sector.
Indeed, in contrast to other PACs where members are given the title of
Commissioner or Member, the DPAC is constituted of State Auditors (in Danish:
Statsrevisor); this title has been in place since the PACs inception in 1849 including
when first incorporated under the Danish Constitution. The concept of the DPAC
being an integral part of the Danish audit function is further elaborated by the DPAC:
the Danish public audit organisation comprises 2 independent institutions
under Parliament: the PAC and the Auditor-Generals Office. The AuditorGenerals Office carries out the majority of the audit work. The AuditorGenerals Office reports to the PAC in the form of reports and memoranda.
The PAC is the only authority with the right to direct the Auditor General to
carry out specific audit activities. (Statsrevisorerne, 2012, p. 12, emphasis
The explicit inclusion of the DPAC in the singular Danish public audit organisation
is a characteristic that demands attention in this chapter. However, other elements of
what makes up the DPAC are notable and explained below.

The DPAC consists of six State Auditors elected by Parliament with the six largest
political parties each electing one State Auditor. These State Auditors do not need to
be Members of Parliament and the present Chair who has served the DPAC for 22
years (16 years as Chair) is not a Member of Parliament. Each State Auditor is elected
for a four-year term but can be re-elected without maximum term., The Chair is the
State Auditor with the longest serving DPAC membership (Knudsen, 2001) and is


typically not a member of the main political party supporting the Government and
perhaps this is related to two further interesting features of the DPACs workings:
1. A principle of consensus: "Individual PAC members often express views on
audit reports and upcoming investigations to the media and the public.
However, such views are always based upon unanimous decisions in the
PAC. (Statsrevisorerne, 2012, p. 12). The principle of consensus in particular
applies in cases where the PAC makes the request that specific investigations
be carried out by the Auditor General (Statsrevisorerne, 2012, p. 11).
2. In camera meetings with only associated staff (the DPAC has a staff of three)
and the NAOD: during these meetings State Auditors have confidence that
they will be heard on confidential matters before having to comply with the
unanimous decisions of the DPAC (J.G. Christensen, 2009).

Holding meetings in camera and maintaining its principle of consensus may be seen
as tactics to minimize political gamesmanship within the DPAC. As a result the
DPAC argues that it has high credibility (Statsrevisorerne, 2012) and this claim is
supported by J.G. Christensen (2009) The DPACs credibility within the overall
political process of Denmark is a fragile achievement belied by its more benign and
uncontroversial four-part mission as stated in the 1849 Danish Constitution, viz:
1. to verify that all revenue is correctly reflected in the accounts and that all
expenditure has been paid in accordance with the legislation,
2. to verify that the accounts are correct,
3. to assess whether the public funds have been managed properly, and
4. to submit the audited public accounts for parliamentary approval
(Statsrevisorerne, 2012, p. 1)
Notwithstanding the apparent account and accounting foci in that mission, the more
politically contentious performance audits bring the DPAC into unavoidably
controversial areas. Attached to those controversies come a range of consequential
questions such as whether a performance audit is appropriate, whether the audits
scope and terms of reference are suitable, whether the conduct of the audit is
professional, whether the audit of one matter eventuates in the omission of other
matters from the performance audit portfolio (given constrained resources) and so on.


It is those questions and their ilk that potentially can lead to attacks on the functioning
of the DPAC as well as the alleged independence of the NAOD.

The DPAC relationship with the NAOD begins with its role in the appointment of the
Auditor-General: the DPAC nominates an individual to the Speaker of Parliament for
an indefinite appointment not beyond a mandatory retirement age of 70 years. In
addition, the DPAC provides the NAOD with an outlet for its reports in that the
NAOD is not empowered to release its reports to the public or media. Instead, the
NAODs reports are forwarded to the DPAC which is empowered to present the
reports to Parliament and to do so with an accompanying commentary and
recommendations for ministerial action. A further mode of significant DPAC
influence with respect to performance audits is in the process determining the audits
terms of reference: the NAOD provides a draft for the DPAC to consider. These
aspects of the DPAC-NAOD relationship, together with the power of the DPAC to
mandate NAOD conduct of specific performance audits form some of the most
important aspects of the DPAC-NAOD relationship. However, given the nuances of
the relationship between an oversight committee and a SAI, it remains an empirical
question as to whether the NAODs independence is limited in the Danish pursuit of
audit supervision. It is to that question that we turn next.

The empirical corpus of this chapter is captured in Table 1 as discussed in the

remainder of the chapter.


NAOD ability to
determine its audit
portfolio plan
Freedom to determine an
audits Terms of Reference
Audit report writing
without external influence

Evidence drawn upon

Statistical analysis of the

implementation of past
Police reform audits
Audits of Ministry of
Foreign Affairs (20012002) and Ministry of
Transport (1998-2004)
Impartiality: avoidance of Audits of Defence (1989decision making
2006) and Denmarks
Radio controversy (20012008)
Table 1: Overview of empirical corpus

NAOD audit reports for
1998 to 2013
Skrbk and Christensen
Justesen (2008); Justesen
and Skrbk (2005; 2010)

Skrbk (2009); NAOD

and DPAC public

Dimensions of the NAODs independence

In this section we assess if the NAOD is unfettered in its performance audit planning.
We present an overview of the relative importance of DPAC-mandated performance
audits compared to the remaining audits that are programmed by the NAOD. The
importance of this is found in ISSAI10 Principle 3 requiring a broad mandate and full
discretion for the SAI in its functions.

Relative importance of DPAC-mandated performance audits

It is a difficult empirical issue to determine relative importance of audits when they
differ significantly in terms of size, impact or precedence. Since performance audits
are by nature variable in their terms of reference, it is challenging to assess the
significance of a specific collection of audits (for example, those audits not mandated
by the NAOD in their portfolio of audits). However, it can be presumed that as the
number of performance audits mandated by the DPAC increase as a proportion of the
total number of performance audits, other things being equal, it is likely that the level
of interference in the NAODs independence may be higher. In accordance with this
presumption we have extracted data (Table 2) showing the number of audits mandated
by the DPAC under Section 8.1 of the Auditor Generals Act (amended 2006).



Audits mandated by

Audits not mandated by % of annual audit

programme mandated
Table 2: Quantum of performance audits mandated by the DPAC, 1998-2013
From Table 2 it is notable that in 10 separate years, a third or more of the NAODs
performance audit topics were chosen by the DPAC. On a simple measure of topics, it
would seem that the NAOD cannot argue that the first simplified feature of
independence (that is unfettered freedom to choose audit topic) is met. In no single
year has the NAOD been able to determine more than 80% of its performance audit
program2 and so it can be concluded that a materially significant number of topics or
devotion of audit resources are not of the choice of the NAOD. Clearly, Section 8.1 of
the Auditor Generals Act which empowers the DPAC to interfere in the NAODs
audit program, is not a hollow power but instead is operating to ensure that party
political forces have an active say in what issues are subject to performance audit.
The NAODs unusual legislated framework has led to independent commentary of the
NAOD on issues of independence (NAOD, 2006a) in a peer review conducted with
the assistance of INTOSAI. That peer review noted that the legislative framework
makes the NAOD unique, compared to other SAIs (NAOD, 2006a, p. 6). Further,
the review noted that the NAOD has a need to enhance its ability to set the correct

2013 seems to be an outlier in this data set in that it is the lowest proportion of DPAC-mandated
audits; however, 2013 marked the first complete year under the current (new) Auditor-General. Below,
we will return to the issue of impact from longevity of Auditor-General and Chair, DPAC.


long-term priorities in performance audit (p. 9). These comments recognise the dual
interference in audit planning quantum and timing that means the NAOD is
significantly challenged in its ability to determine an audit portfolio plan on any

Arising from oversight interference in the NAOD is its inability to follow its desired
audit plan since it can be disrupted at any time and to any extent decided by the
DPAC. The difficulty of this situation is noted by Knudsen (2001, p. 141): The
Auditor-General has to find a balance between requested audits and self-determined
audit work. This requires that the resource consumption to the various tasks is made
explicit. This also requires that the Auditor-General draws attention to circumstances
where requested work becomes an impediment to other tasks. However, to date there
is no known public expression of dissatisfaction by the Auditor-General including in
the years 2000, 2003 and 2009 when the DPAC mandated 47%, 43% and 50% of the
whole performance audit regime. It is difficult to contemplate how a planned program
of performance audits can absorb such magnitudes of unplanned audits without
destroying the audit plan in topic or depth. Thus the issue of priority setting in
determining the program of performance audit is clearly an issue with which the
NAOD must grapple given the annual and ad hoc mandated audits directed by the
Whilst the Auditor Generals Act allows DPAC mandate of audit, there is evidence
that the powerful Parliamentary Finance and Budget Committee also directs the
NAOD to conduct audits. This evidence is found in a report by the consulting firm
Rambll (2009, p. 35) noting that The Parliaments Finance and Budget Committee
is also requesting more reviews to be done (p. 35). Although the magnitude of such
requests is unknown, Skrbk and Christensen (forthcoming) also document an
instance of direction from the Finance and Budget Committee to the NAOD via the
DPAC for conduct of a performance audit.
Given the NAODs inability to fully program its audit plan, it faces difficult choices
in resource allocation and indications are that one choice is to lessen the depth of
audits. That is, an observed tendency to compliance audit rather than performance


audit has been documented by peer review (NAOD, 2006a) and agreed by the NAOD
(NAOD, 2013). This tendency means that the NAODs performance audit program
has less emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness than would be expected of a truly
independent SAI. Arising from this observation is an interest in the other aspects of
independence to which we turn next.

Freedom to determine an audits Terms of Reference

Crucial to an independent SAI is the ability to focus planned performance audits on
specific matters where justified by the Auditors-General judgement on materiality
and risk without external pressure to include or exclude certain matters. The final
expression of that judgement is the audit specification documented in Terms of
Reference defining the scope of the audit. Implicit in good performance audit practice
is the understanding that the auditor will determine the audits Terms of Reference
and other aspects of the audits specifications (INTOSAI Professional Standard
Committee, 2010).
In order to understand the NAODs situation with respect to audit specification, it is
necessary to consider the process by which a performance audit is conceived, planned,
executed, reported upon and subsequently audited. That process is depicted in Figure
1 wherein it is shown that NAOD performance audits are subject to a routine draft of
an audit specification which needs to be agreed to by the DPAC before the
commencement of the audit.

Figure 1: Performance audit procedure


In this section, we review evidence that audit specifications do not always comply
with ISSAI Principle 3. Rarely can we see behind the closed doors of the DPAC and
NAOD in their audit planning but in the case of multiple performance audits of the
Danish police reforms from 2008 to 2010, revealing data is produced. As documented
by Skrbk and Christensen (forthcoming), draft Terms of Reference were prepared
by the NAOD after receiving a DPAC notice of requirement of a performance audit.
The draft Terms of Reference were sent to the DPAC with the Auditors-General
request: If the DPAC wants, I can initiate the investigation in accordance with the
sketched above (NAOD, 2008, p. 4) and final audit specifications were approved by
the DPAC. In a major performance audit, the specification was narrow such that
instead of a performance audit in which evaluations of economy, efficiency and
effectiveness would be reached there was a decision to focus on the management of
the reform (which) framed the audit and this can be identified as an instance of blame
purification provided by the auditing profession (Skrbk and Christensen,

Whilst the police reform audits can be considered to be a single case where political
controversy was extreme (refer Skrbk and Christensen, forthcoming), it is notable
that the formalised process of determining Terms of Reference as shown in Figure 1 is
apparently designed to ensure the NAOD does not commence a performance audit
with only its independent judgement determining the issues to be subject to audit. A
review of DPAC requests for audits under Section 8.1 of the Auditor General Act
reveals that the DPAC uses a standard format in which it specifies questions or issues
to be investigated which subsequently appear in the audits Terms of Reference.
Indeed, it is documented that the DPAC holds its meetings with the Auditor-General
waiting outside the meeting room in case he (now she) is required for discussions with
the DPAC (Rambll, 2009, p. 29). The consequential smooth flow of nondocumented directives from the DPAC directly to the NAOD does not reinforce the
image of the Auditor-General exercising absolute independence. Further, there is no
evidence of a lack of unanimity between the DPAC and the NAOD on the Terms of
Reference for performance audits. Instead, it seems that the process is designed to


privilege political influence over the NAODs judgement and in contravention of

ISSAI Principle Number 3.

Performance audit report writing without influence external to the NAOD

Performance audit reports are invariably controversial in their findings. Such
controversy raises issues of political risk to government, agencies and senior
managers such that there is heightened sensitivity to the written word of the eventual
audit output: a final report. It is in that context that INTOSAI (2007) has pointed to
the importance that the SAI is not subject to influence in writing of the performance
audit report. It is within that issue we now consider evidence arising from the
NAODs recent activities.

The extant literature reveals strong evidence that the NAOD subjects its audit reports
to a degree of co-authoring. For example, Justesen (2008) presents an in-depth study
of the writing of a performance audit regarding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She
finds that a multiplicity of authors (p. 214) give birth to audit reports under the
name of the NAOD.

Comparable to the analysis of Justesen (2008), Justesen and Skrbk (2005; 2010)
analyse of a series of audit reports between 1998 and 2004 in the Ministry of
Transport (MoT) portfolio and identify instances of co-authoring of audit reports. In
that six year period, the DPAC mandated seven audits related to specific issues arising
in the MoTs responsibilities. These audits can be seen as a series in which issues
from prior audits influenced audit reports in the subsequent audits. By recognising the
seriatim nature of these reports, Justesen and Skrbk (2010) point out that the ways
in which media, politicians and auditee managers have treated prior reports seem to be
influencing subsequent report writing and selection of future audit topics.

In the package of information presented by Justesen and Skrbk (2010) it is notable

that the series of audits reached a culmination in a DPAC-mandated audit on the
"corporate management responsibility of the MoT Secretariat (Rigsrevisionen, 2004).
The evidence suggests that the DPAC had taken target on the cause of its concerns
regarding transport issues across multiple agencies over a six year period: the senior


managers. Both these managers and the NAOD were aware that media reaction to
audits is positively correlated with the extent of criticism expressed in the audit
reports and so the number of rounds of report revision seemed to increase as the
seriatum audits emerged. In the latter audit report writing, six drafts were discussed
before the NAOD felt confident to provide the DPAC with its report (Justesen and
Skrbk, 2005, p. 334). Such an incidence of drafting indicates a degree of coauthoring or negotiation rather than the prescribed check for accuracy process
whereby an auditee is invited to comment on a draft report. As Justesen and Skrbk
(2005, p. 334) note: an important external factor that influenced the process was the
PAC who initiated the writing of the report (and) in this sense the PAC is clearly
an active co-writer in this particular audit process. Thus, the ideal image of an audit
report being an unbiased and independent output of a scientific process of enquiry is
damaged by Justesens (2005) and Justesen and Skrbks (2010) demonstration of
co-authoring and the determination of audit targets in a series of progressive audits.

Decision making involvement

ISSAI 10 and ISSAI 12 provide sound argument as to why auditors should avoid
involvement in the management or decision making processes of auditee entities. A solid
principle is that such involvement will necessarily reduce the SAIs independence if
conducting future audits in those affected entities. In this regard, we sought to identify
whether there is evidence of the NAOD breaching this good practice whereby auditors
should not be involved or be seen to be involved, in any manner, whatsoever, in the
management of the organizations that they audit. (ISSAI 12, p. 5).

At the time of the cases referred to in Table 1, the NAOD English-language webpage
unintentionally revealed the potential for danger in regard to involvement in decision
making. It sought to establish a twin identity which, if implemented, would bring the
NAOD close to involvement in auditee decision making. The webpage stated that
NAODs mission covered both a control and an encourage role (NAOD, 2005
however the NAOD did not seem to recognise the inherent contradiction between
controlling auditees without having involvement in management or decision making


as would be the case if change was encouraged.3 Whilst that inherent contradiction
was present, a trap seemed to be present for NAOD auditors such that their
enthusiasm for change might blind them to the dangers attached to auditors becoming
too closely associated with planning and/or implementation of new systems. It is to
that danger that we turn in this section.

At least two documented cases exist where evidence points to NAOD auditors being
accused of involvement in management decision making within an auditee entity. One
case is documented by Skrbk (2009) and relates to the Danish Defence Force
(DDF) in a series of eight audits conducted by the NAOD from 1989 to 2006. Over
such a large number of audits it is shown that the NAODs desire to see management
accounting reform resulted in their exposure to decision making about the precise
design of that reform. Thus one interviewee recalled when the decision was being
made to implement the new accounting system named DeMars: the NAOD was
sitting at the end of the table when DeMars was decided (quoted in Skrbk, 2009,
p. 981). Further, in the Auditors-General 1996 annual report to parliament, he
assured that DeMars will solve all significant problems (quoted in Skrbk, 2009,
p. 981). In this evidence we see the NAOD assuming an identity not consistent with
ISSAI Principle 3 since it became active in the DDF as a modernizer rather than an
independent auditor. The modernizer was keen to support and implement what it
considered to be improvements to the DDFs accounting system. Consequential to
that, the DPAC expressed concern that the NAOD was involved with the DeMars
project as a consultant giving advice (Skrbk, 2009, p. 981).
The NAODs exposure to a self-inflicted impairment to its independence in the DDF
audits did not act to prevent it from much greater reputational damage in 2006 when it
became embroiled in criticism of its active support of management decision making in
the Denmarks Radio (DR) building cost-overrun scandal. Although peer-reviewed
analysis of the NAODs involvement in the DR scandal is yet to appear, we rely here
on source documents that reveal matters relevant to our endeavour in this chapter.

Sometime between 2012 and the time of writing, the NAOD revised its webpage and removed the
words control and encourage from its mission. The more recent mission statement is:
Rigsrevisionen audits the government accounts on behalf of the Danish parliament and supports the
development of efficient administration in order to create maximum value for the citizens (NAOD,


DR is Denmarks national broadcaster and the case here emerged from serious cost
overruns that developed as DR was managing the construction of a new domicile
intended by the government to be a major piece of infrastructure underpinning a new
urban extension of Copenhagen in previously undeveloped land. The new building
and concert hall was to be a landmark and thus was politically important from the
beginning of its conception. During the construction phase, the NAOD made annual
financial audits and various commentaries on a running basis (KPMG and Grant
Thornton, 2008, p. 161) on the DR construction project between 2002 and 2006.
Indeed to do so, the NAODs allocated staff frequently attended the premises of DR
during the construction management period. From this close relationship between the
NAOD and DR management one eventual result was that the NAOD was challenged
as to whether it had breached the impartiality principle of avoiding decision making in
auditee entities.

The controversy surrounding the very large cost overruns (around 600 million DKK
in 2006) of the DR project led to growing commentary in the Danish media. The
amount of money involved became a political embarrassment and the NAOD
responded by announcing in early September it would conduct a major review of the
DR project. However, this action generated criticism that the NAOD lacked
impartiality because it had previously supported budget allocations with advice to the
DR Board in April 2006 that those allocations encompassed known risks. That is,
commentators drew attention to the NAODs lack of independence on the matter of
DRs management as a consequence of its provision of advice regarding future
eventualities. The severity of this criticism motivated the Parliaments Culture
Committee to seek advice from Parliaments Legal Secretariat as to the reality or
appearance of the NAODs lack of impartiality, independence or competence to audit
the DR. In December 2006 the Secretariat brought its report to Parliament noting that
the NAOD had provided advice and support to the DR in its management of the
construction project (Folketingets Lovsekretariat, 2006) however a case of partiality
sufficient to warrant dismissal of the Auditor-General was not found. Nevertheless,
the Auditor-General decided to cancel the proposed audit and instead KPMG and


Grant Thornton were commissioned, by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, to conduct a

performance audit of DR from which they eventually produced a 389 page report.

The notable outcome of the DR case, from the audit point of view, was that it
produced a very rare moment in Denmarks long history of the DPAC: the DPAC
issued a criticism of the NAOD. Even though the KPMG/Grant Thornton extensive
report concluded that DRs management could not rely only on the NAODs advice,
the DPACs secretariat was more damning in its conclusion that there was an
expectations gap (we) had expected that the NAOD had audited the budgetary
assumptions and had compared them to the degrees of actual accomplishment
(Statsrevisorerne Sekretariat, 2008, p. 8). Further, the DPAC noted that it found it
unsatisfactory that the NAOD for a number of issues had not carried out its audit task
on the DRs construction (project) (Statsrevisorerne, 2008, p. 1). This observation of
the DPAC reveals an expectation that the NAOD could in some way have prevented
the cost overruns. Such an expectation appears to be reflective of a faith in the power
of audit which is clearly beyond what can be delivered and if it were possible, would
imperil the NAODs impartiality. As will be noted, the DPAC would achieve more if
it invoked other arms of government machinery to implement change where the
DPAC perceived change was required.

The DR case is enlightening, not simply for its alert to the NAOD of the importance
of independence. Additionally, it revealed that the decision to conduct performance
audits in Denmark, at that time, was a political outcome and that the DPAC is
superior to the NAOD. Further, it revealed involvements of Parliamentary
Committees beyond the DPAC and Finance and Budget Committee in the selection of
audit topics and the crafting of Terms of Reference (even after the commencement of
the audit, since the NAOD audit was altered by request of the DPAC and the Culture
Committee, after the audit had commenced and before it was later aborted) (NAOD,
2006b). These observations are consistent with aspects of the abovementioned Police
and Defence audits.


Conclusion: something rotten in the state of Denmark, or an open and

transparent society?
The above discussion presents strong evidence that the relationship between the
NAOD and the DPAC leaves the NAOD in a situation of weakened or impaired
independence. The NAOD cannot determine its audit plan without interference by the
DPAC and other Parliamentary bodies; the audit specifications are negotiated and
eventually approved by the DPAC; audit reports are the consequence of a coauthoring process and subject to overarching comment by the DPAC before being
released for public consideration; and, there are known instances of the NAOD
providing advice to auditee entities where that advice relates to management decision
making which may be subject to future audit. Each of these matters is in contradiction
to ISSAI Standards or good practice.

The evidence noted herein seems damning of Danish institutional arrangements for
public sector audit. However, an arguable case can be made that the Danes have
established legislative and precedential conventions that make open (or relatively
open) what happens by way of hidden reality in most other countries. That is, it is
nave to expect that audit oversight bodies do not exert varying levels of influence
over SAIs in terms of their performance audit planning and in terms of interpretation
of the audit results, including crafting of a politically sensitive audit report (for a
comparable example, refer Radcliffe, 2008). By legislating the DPACs right to
mandate audits and by creating the convention that audit Terms of Reference are
influenced and approved by the DPAC, Denmark has made open the fact that SAIs
cannot operate with absolute independence whilst Parliament remains supreme. Of
course, the balancing act that is required is for Parliament to ensure that the
Executive does not turn Parliament into a rubber stamp approving body. In that
regard, the Danish mechanism of the six largest political parties electing one
individual each (and not necessarily a Parliamentarian) means that audit oversight is
enacted by a political mix close to that which characterizes Parliament, and not the
Government which is constituted by the single largest political party or a coalition
commanding a majority of votes.


Against the efficacious design features of the DPAC-NAOD tango can be noted
some risks which demonstrate that Denmark could nevertheless improve matters
related to public sector audit. In particular there is a risk of impartiality impairment as
the tenures of the DPAC Chair and the Auditor-General stretch into long sometimes
decades long concurrent tenures. In the period from 1998-2012 the same DPAC
Chair and the same Auditor-General held their respective roles and during that period
it is notable that the degree of DPAC-mandated audits rose to 50% of the total
performance audit program. Such proportions cannot be seen as conforming to the
right of the SAI to determine what is audited but they may indicate the relationship
between DPAC Chair and Auditor-General had reached levels of mutual confidence
and understanding that do not serve the interests of Parliament nor independent audit.
In such a close relationship, it is possible that both institutions begin to rely on each
others support to the point where mutual co-dependency causes dysfunctions in the
acquittal of independent audit. Thus we observe the NAOD failing to preserve its
impartiality in cases such as the DR audit and we observe the DPAC involving itself
in audits as they proceed even to the effect of altering Terms of Reference during an

The time honoured principle of ensuring auditors do not develop a close personal
relationship with auditees could be equally applied to the tango of relations between a
DPAC Chair and an Auditor-General. In order to obviate the likelihood of codependency reaching levels comparable to nepotism, it would seem desirable to set
maximum terms of Chair tenure for the DPAC. Such a system would be a contrast to
the current arrangement whereby the DPAC Chair is the longest serving State Auditor
thus there is no mechanism to prevent a long serving Chair from serving a concurrent
period with a long serving Auditor-General. In fact, the current arrangements
guarantee the DPAC Chair and the Auditor-General will work closely together for
long periods unless either relinquishes their appointment. Thus we see the current
DPAC Chair and the previous Auditor-General were in their respective positions
concurrently for 14 years. Given the controversial nature of public sector audit it
seems likely that a series of crises in which the performance of both the DPAC and
the NAOD come under pressure and scrutiny, may result in the DPAC Chair and the
Auditor-General, as individual human beings, being compromised by favours,


exchanges and administrative accommodations that will necessarily arise. This

observation leads to another that also arises from the examination of DPAC and
NAOD relations: the concern as to how the NAODs activities are influenced by the
NAODs subservient relation to the DPAC.

The NAOD appears to have become a tool of investigation for the DPAC which also
acts as its administrative supervisor and conduit to Parliament. Whilst the NAOD is
administratively a rather recent institution (commencing in 1976), the DPAC is
remarkably longstanding with its history, dating from 1849. These comparative
histories add to the exercise of control by the DPAC over the NAOD with respect to
performance audits. However, that control, at least under the 14 year period of
concurrent tenures of the current DPAC Chair and the previous Auditor-General, has
seen the NAOD performance audit criticized by peer review for excessive focus on
compliance at the expense of considerations of efficiency and effectiveness (NAOD,
2006). It has also seen up to 50% of the NAODs annual audit program being
determined by the DPAC (refer Table 2) and evidence of other bodies influence over
the NAODs audit program is also found. These findings are coupled with the finding
that Danish public sector performance audits arising from the political process are
characterized as exercises in blame (Skrbk and Christensen, forthcoming) in which
that blame turns focus on to individuals and thus diverts attention from system issues
of efficiency and effectiveness. As a result it is observed here that the NAODs
performance audit function is less effective than is possible.
In addition to the abovementioned observations with respect to the NAODs
performance, this chapter concludes with the observation that the DPAC is itself not
well served by its control over the NAOD. First, the DPAC has a confidence in the
power of audit that exceeds the reality of audit: instead of invoking the use of relevant
arms of government (such as the Ministry of Finance), the DPAC seems to rely on the
NAOD for accounting expertise. Second, the disservice to the DPAC results from the
manner in which the DPAC has diminished the NAODs independence such that the
oversight of the NAOD is also diminished. Since the DPAC Chair and the AuditorGeneral are likely to spend a number of years in close cooperation over controversial
matters of intense interest to the political parties of Denmark, the DPACs oversight


of the NAOD is also compromised. As a result, instances of NAOD transgression of

normal audit principles designed to preserve impartiality have been shown to arise.
Perhaps with a less compromised oversight, the NAODs service to the DPAC would
be improved. Indeed, the dramatic drop in DPAC-mandated audit in the first full year
of the new Auditor-General (refer Table 2, 2013 data) may indicate that the new
Auditor-General has observed the dangers pointed out above and has also been able to
persuade the DPAC of her need to control the NAODs audit program in order to
preserve her independence. Another interpretation of this limited data emergence is
that the previous DPAC Chair and Auditor-General tango also allowed the NAOD to
use the cover of DPAC-mandate to persuade agencies that the necessity for a
performance audit in their realm of responsibilities was independently determined
from outside the NAOD. In doing so, the room to negotiate timing and scope of the
audit would be eliminated since the legislative and political power of the DPAC
would overwhelm any considerations that an agency may be able to marshal.

A final comment is worthy here: the abovementioned cases and data relate to the
Danish public sector audit tango of relations between SAI and audit oversight body,
yet these observations can throw light on the generics of this difficult relationship.
Clearly, SAI independence is crucial. However, SAIs do not have some god-like
existence but they are drawn necessarily into the human and non-human networks
within which they must operate. As a result, they need to preserve their reputation and
identity as experts with the purity that is associated with independence and
impartiality yet they also need to have allies in government and in the public sector.
To marshall support will sometimes require being supported and, perhaps later, being
supportive. Such deals can thus influence the context within which SAIs necessarily
operate including their relationships with the parliamentary oversight of their
operations. The Danish situation may be uniquely Danish with its unusual legislative
framework and its long history, but it does involve principles that are necessarily
unavoidable in most SAIs.


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Beyond What?
- on the diffusion of Beyond Budgeting
Trond Bjrnenak

Beyond budgeting (BB) is a practice-defined concept that has received increased attention in
recent years. Evidence of why it is diffused and how it is adopted in practice seems to be more
anecdotal. The purpose of this paper is to describe and compare different adoptions of BB.
Drawing on diffusion theory, these differences are related to the various actors driving such
adoption. The findings show that there are major differences in how BB is adopted. In the
controller-driven version, an advanced set of management accounting practices replaces the
budget, and the fixed core of the accounting system is extended significantly. There are clear
indications of a tension between corporate and local controllers. At the other extreme, the
CEO-driven adoption dramatically diminished the role of the centralized controller function
and redefined a fixed core based on hard financial performance measures. In the forced
selection case, budgets became a local system and not a part of the fixed core of the system.
The systems with and without budgets had common features, and the main differences lay in
balance between the central and local, and the temporary and continuous elements of the
system, not in whether budgets were used or not. This paper contributes to our understanding
of the concept of BB, introduces a framework for describing changes in management
accounting systems, the role of controllers in BB and calls for the prompt rethinking of
traditional management accounting diffusion studies.


1. Introduction

Beyond Budgeting (BB) has become an increasingly important management model in large
organisations all over the world. A BB movement has been launched in recent years, mainly
driven by practitioners and other non-academic institutions (see e.g. Kaplan in Bogsnes,
2009). Network organizations like the Beyond Budgeting Roundtable (www.bbrt.org) have
attracted significant corporate membership, with participating companies differing greatly in
size and origin.
Despite being known about for over two decades, the BB phenomenon has not attracted much
academic interest. With a few, mainly Scandinavian exceptions, there seems to have been
limited systematic research on the diffusion, implementation and effects of BB. In fact, there
is little evidence both of what actually constitutes BB and of how management control
systems are implemented in organizations departing from traditional budgets. Management
accounting textbooks (e.g. Horngren, Datar and Rajan, 2015) seem either to more or less
ignore the concept or to limit themselves to the case of the Swedish bank, Handelsbanken, in
conjunction with rhetoric gleaned from the Beyond Budgeting Roundtable (e.g. Burns et. al.,
One plausible explanation for this gap between academia and practice is the lack of
understanding of the concept per se. Management accounting innovations like balanced
scorecard, activity based costing or target costing all have a technical core that can be
related to traditional systems. So what is new in BB? Is it the design of the control systems?
Or is it just a critique of traditional models? In a number of publications, Hope & Frazer state
that BB is neither a tool nor a technique, rather a management model or management
philosophy (see e.g. Hope and Frazer, 2003). BB is a practice-defined concept, and as such
involves much more than management accounting tools and techniques. But at the same time
BB is still perceived in practice as a management accounting-related topic (Becker, Messner
and Scffer, 2010). Thus, it is also about how companies replace budgets with other
management accounting tools. According to Charles Horngreen:
Most of the solutions generally proposed for management problems involve putting
something new into the organization. In this regard, beyond budgeting is very different.


Perhaps uniquely, it proposes taking something powerful out to make room for something new
and even more powerful. (Horngren, in Hope and Frazer, 2003)
The aim of this study is to investigate how companies operate when they remove budgets, i.e.
what they are changing and why they do these changes. It is also aiming at an improved
understanding of why the BB companies differ in the design of their control system. The roles
of top management and controllers are of particular interest, since they are seen as the drivers
of change. Thus, these actors are given close attention in the study. We will also investigate
the potential effects of different actors introducing the idea to an organization.
This investigation of how and why BB is spread and implemented is based on three nonrandomly selected cases. This selection was informed both by diffusion theory, and by the
role of different actors in their adoption of new ideas. However, it is not diffusion per se that
is the focus of the study; rather, the relations between the drivers of the adoption and the ideas
which they adopt. In order to describe the latter, the study applies a framework for unbundling
management accounting ideas.
The following section presents the pioneers of BB and outlines previous BB research. Section
three presents a framework based on diffusion theory and a model for unbundling
management accounting innovations. This is followed by a discussion of the research method
applied in the study. Section five presents the findings from the three cases, followed by a
discussion section and conclusions.


2. Beyond Budgeting pioneers and previous research

In 1970, Jan Wallander took over as CEO of the Swedish Handelsbanken. One of his first
moves was to abandon budgeting (Wallander 1994, 1999). This case has been cited in a
number of books (e.g. Burns et al 2013) and articles as a classic case of BB, and Wallander is
often described as the BB pioneer (Hope and Fraser, 2003; Bogsnes 2009). However the case
did not get much attention prior to the late 1990s, when Wallander published Budgets
unnecessary evil (1994). The book was written in Swedish, but a shorter, English version was
published in the Scandinavian Journal of Management in 1999 (Wallander, 1999).
Wallander was inspired to abandon budgets having worked for many years as a professional
economist leading a research institute specialising in making long-term forecasts for different
variables (demand for cars, TVs etc.). These forecasts were based on historical trends, and
breaks in the curve were generally not foreseen. Wallander saw a similar problem with
budgets: they prevent management from identifying the important issues. Wallanders
proposed alternative was to keep it simple:
It is evident that the kind of information I am talking about are the figures that to a large extent you already
have or should have in your profit and loss account and balance sheet and your ordinary information systems.
What you have to do is to organize and construct them in such a way that they fit the demand ..
Wallander, 1999, p. 413

The solution chosen by the Swedish Handelsbanken was to focus on relative financial
performance (benchmarking branches on costs, profit and losses) and a profit sharing bonus
plan. This simple system was not in any way a secret. Nevertheless, Handelsbanken has
outperformed all other large Scandinavian banks. In every year since 1972, they have reported
a ROE that is above average for the industry, and their annual total shareholder return has
been more than 20% over the same period. The most obvious profit driver has been cost
efficiency, with a cost-to-income ratio of approximately 45% (average in the industry is above
The other pioneer in Scandinavia is the Norwegian oil company, Statoil, as presented by
Bjarte Bogsnes in his book Implementing Beyond Budgeting (2009). Bogsnes is also chairman
of Beyond Budgeting Round Table Europe. Statoils experience of BB began in the


petrochemical company Borealis (partly owned by Statoil), where Bogsnes and his group of
controllers blew up the budget in 1995. This decision was not informed by any other
We were actually far down the road before we heard about Handelsbanken, even if the bank already had been
operating without budgets for 25 years, and only some 100 miles away! (Bogsnes, 2009, p. 68)

At Borealis, the traditional budget was replaced by four tools: rolling financial forecasts,
balanced scorecard, ABC, and an investment management system. The success of the
system was presented at different seminars in Scandinavia. However, the performance
statistics were based on perceived benefits within the company and not on actual outcomes.
Borealis came under new shareholders in 1999, and Statoil sold its stake in 2005.
Bjarte Bogsnes returned to Statoil in 2002 as a corporate controller. In 2005, Statoils BB
program was approved by the executive committee, and Bogsnes became the full-time BB
project manager:
Steve Morlidge, who held a similar role in Unilever, claims that there were only three of us in such roles at the
time. I am glad that the number is on the way up. Right now there are actually three of us in Norway alone.
(Bogsnes, 2009, p. 109)

Statoils board has not approved a budget since 2004, and many (but not all) units currently
implement the new Statoil model. The company implemented a large-scale Enterprise
Resource Planning (ERP) system in the late 1990s, and for a long time used balanced
scorecards (known as Management Information in Statoil (MIS)). Key performance indicators
(KPIs) and target setting are also essential in the new model:
Ambition to action is our version of the balanced scorecard (Bogsnes, 2009, p. 114)

KPIs are measured ex-post and integrated into forecasting. Ambition targets are set for the
KPIs. These are measured ex-post and in some cases are forecasted ex-ante.
The purpose of this short presentation of these two pioneering companies implementing BB is
not to give a full description of the new models and systems, rather to highlight some


differences and similarities between them. First of all, in both cases, the introduction of BB
was based on a harsh critique of the traditional budgeting system. In both of their books
(Wallander 1994, Bogsnes, 2009) a significant amount of room is given over to describing
problems with traditional systems. These problems are also based on the authors outside
experiences. Wallander drew on his previous work in research and long-term prognoses.
Bogsnes brought experience of a company which operated in a totally different setting. Note
that Statoil was, and remains, a (mainly offshore) oil company with very high profitability;
whereas Borealis was a manufacturing company with low profitability.
Another important similarity can be seen in the roles of Jan Wallander and Bjarte Bogsnes. In
both cases, the projects are channelled individually through their creators. The changes
implemented are not based on consultants or textbooks, but internally driven by a clear leader
with high legitimacy.
The most obvious difference between the companies is the economic conditions under which
they operate. When Wallander took over, Handelsbanken was in a challenging position with
rather low profitability. Statoils situation, however, was the opposite. High oil prices meant
that the company had the highest operating income of all companies registered in
Another important difference is in the alternative models introduced. At Statoil, a version of
the balanced scorecard was mixed with the use of rolling forecasts. At Handelsbanken,
however, the focus was mainly on financial performance measures. This system was very
simple compared to those of Borealis and Statoil the latters being more consistent with both
the guidelines presented in modern BB literature (Hope and Fraser, 2003; Hope 2006) and the
versions presented at conferences and in BB networks (bbrt.org). The differences between the
two cases were also an important motivation for this study, with the central question being:
Are BB solutions as diverse as the two example cases seem to indicate, and what are the
potential explanations for this heterogeneity?
Previous BB research has mainly focused on the perceived relevance of the budget critique.
Studies have shown a rather low support for BB claims about budgets (e.g. Ekholm and
Wallin, 2000; Libby and Lindsey, 2009; Becker, 2011). This has been put forward as an


explanation for BBs lack of popularity. Budgets are seen as very useful, although with some
perceived weaknesses. However, in-depth investigations of companies that claim to have
implemented BB are scarce. One notable exception is Bourmistrov and Kaarbes (2013)
study of two multinationals choosing to adopt BB. The study shows how BB practices helped
design a new type of management control system and information supply, with the aim of
moving decision makers from a comfort zone to a stretch zone. The authors also call for
further research in order to better understand the changes driven by BB adoption. The current
study complements that of Bourmistrov and Kaarbe in focusing more explicitly on changes
in management accounting practices, the central-local system dimension, and the role of
controllers in BB companies.
3. Theoretical background: Unbundling, controllers and diffusion
This study draws on two groups of theories. First, management accounting as a set of design
characteristics. In order to describe and analyse changes in management accounting systems,
a framework is required. Secondly, the aim of the study is to understand why we may get
different solutions. In the cases selected, this enquiry is informed by diffusion theory. More
specifically, we are interested in the associations between how and why the idea was adopted,
and the corresponding changes in the design of the control system.
Unbundling management accounting innovations
Bjrnenak and Olson (1999) introduced a framework for analysing management accounting
innovations. The framework is based on two dimensions: scope and system. The scope
dimension describes the objects for which we are accounting (descriptive objects, e.g.
customers, department or products), describes and gives explanations for variations in the
descriptive object (e.g. cost drivers or performance measures), and includes the time period
over which the objects are accounted for (e.g. a month or year). The main descriptive object in
this study is responsibility centres (budget units).
According to Bjrnenak and Kaarbe (2013), the system dimension can be decomposed into
two categories: lifetime and focus. The lifetime of a system is not given much attention in
existing management accounting, control and cost management literature. One exception is


Pike et al (2011), which shows that activity based costing, implemented as stand-alone or ad
hoc systems, is seen as more useful than the embedded ABC systems that are frequently
updated and integrated into the financial reporting process. The reason for this may be that the
stand alone or ad hoc system are understood to be more target oriented when addressing a
specific problem. The properties of temporary systems may be quite different from continuous
ones. As they are designed for a short lifetime, they may get more attention, they may
include more complex data sources than traditional management accounting systems,
and they may be designed and used on a trial and error basis (Bjrnenak and Olson, 1999).
However, organizations cannot operate using only temporary systems. Some systems also
have to operate continuously. It is hence important that organizations find the right balance
between temporary and continuous systems.
The focus dimension concerns the question of whether systems should be global or local. A
global system is one used by the whole organization, such as product costing systems. The
annual budget is also normally a global system. Local systems, conversely, are developed and
used in a business unit (BU) or smaller part of the organization. The idea of LS introduces an
alternative to the central, and institutionalized, logic of conventional management accounting
systems (Grnlund and Jnsson, 1988). Instead of focusing on the need of symmetry of
information, LS argues that information systems should be designed for local information
needs, which means that accounting systems produce asymmetric information. For larger
organizations, it is possible to have both global and local systems. The different combinations
of the two dimensions are shown in figure 1. The set core of the management accounting and
control system is the fixed global set of cost and performance measures used throughout the
whole organization. This can, for example, be a number of global and continuously measured
financial (e.g. ROI) and non-financial (e.g. customer satisfaction) measures applicable to all
BUs. In addition, some BUs or even smaller entities within the organization may have their
local problems. For example, there may be specific interest in a particular customer group
whose profitability has to be identified, explained and understood. A local, temporary system
may hence be developed in order to understand the cost development in that area. An example
of a mixed local and continuous system could be the continuous benchmarking of particular
activities at a local level.


Figure 1. System dimensions (adopted from Bjrnenak and Kaarbe, 2013).

The aim of this study is to understand the dynamics of BB in the system dimension. Central to
our enquiry will be the questions of what happens to the fixed core when budgets are
abandoned, and whether this abandonment leads to the creation of more temporary or local

Diffusion of management accounting innovations

The questions of why and how companies adopt new management practices and new
management accounting techniques has been a central topic in the literature of both
management and organizational theory (e.g. Abrahamson, 1991, Kennedy and Fiss, 2009) and
management accounting (Ax and Bjrnenak, 2007).
Diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels
over time among the members of a social system (Rogers, 1995). Traditionally, diffusion
studies have focused on organizations demand for innovation, with the communication
process driven by potential adopters of these innovations. The information field characterizes
the extent of contacts that a potential adopter has made at a given point of time. Torsten
Hgerstrand (1967) introduced the concept to describe the probability of contact at different


distances and directions. The exposure patterns among potential adopters in a society may
vary substantially, and the information may be an interesting independent variable to explain
the diffusion patterns. For example, institutional relations may play an important role in the
definition of a companys information field. While the demand side driven studies view the
information field as a passive factor in the diffusion process, more recent studies have seen
the supply-side as actively trying to control the information field of potential adopters
(Abrahamson, 1991, 1996; Abrahamson and Fairchild, 1999). This modern perspective has
also inspired studies regarding the diffusion of management accounting innovations
(Bjrnenak, 1997; Gosselin, 1997; Malmi, 1999). In this study we are interested in how the
information field and the supply side may inform the content of the diffused idea, i.e. what is
spread and not only why it spreads.
Potential adopters may seek different types of benefit from an innovation. The decision to
adopt an idea may be motivated by both opportunities and threats (Kennedy and Fiss, 2009).
Early adopters are assumed to be more motivated by social and economic opportunity, while
late adopters are assumed to be motivated by the perceived threats of social and economic
The idea adopted may have a strong technical core or be a combination of many technical and
rhetorical elements. BB can be seen as a housing innovation (Ax and Bjrnenak, 2007), i.e.
an idea that may house a number of different ideas and techniques (Alvarez, 1998). Mazza
and Alvarez (2000) stress the importance of making innovations compatible with the societies
to which they are transmitted (diffused). They also argue that cultural discourses and
legitimization are the main resources needed to make the popularization of an innovation
possible. One means by which the supply-side can popularize an innovation in a specific
location is by fitting the innovations design characteristics and rhetorical elements (i.e.
bundling) to the preferences and knowledge of potential adopters.
This study draws on these streams of diffusion research. First, we will attempt to identify
what constitutes the core of BB in a management accounting setting, and thus arrive at an
understanding of what is being diffused. Second, we will investigate early adopters and
examine the types of gain being sought. Third, we will focus on the often neglected role of
human agency (Birkinshaw, Hamel and Mol, 2008), where agents initiate and drive the


process of change. Forth, we are investigating the design characteristics of BB, and how these
characteristics fit the change agents role in the organization.

4. Research Method
This study draws on concepts and empirical findings from the design of management
accounting systems and from diffusion studies. The main purpose is to explore what BB
actually comprises and how it is implemented in real-world situations. The fact that only a
small number of companies have implemented BB, and the requirement for in-depth
information on these companies control systems, calls for a non-randomly selected study
sample. The cross-sectional case study approach can broaden our understanding by detecting
cross-case patterns for specific issues that are otherwise embedded in detailed single case
write-ups. Cross-sectional case studies can, for example, detect and document variations in
practice for defined variables such as BB (Lillis and Mundey, 2005).
Informed by diffusion studies, we will investigate the role of different agents in the adoption
of BB. We have actively searched for the following three different settings for the adoption

A CEO driven adoption inspired by the Handelsbanken example. We have identified

another financial institution were the idea of removing budgets was clearly initiated by
the new CEO in 2000. The information field for this adoption was Handelsbanken.
However, there was no direct contact between the two organizations and the case
company was to our knowledge the first to implement the idea in Norway (in 2000).

The second case is an example of controller-driven BB adoption. Despite having

support from top management (the CFO), the adoption was clearly driven by a group
of headquarter controllers in active communication with other companies already
implementing BB.

The third case was chosen as an example of forced selection adoption. The company
in question is a subsidiary of a BB adopter, and the idea came down from the parent
company. The subsidiary was not formally forced to adopt the idea, but the board and
the CEO (who came from the parent company) still decided to abandon budgets at a
central level.


Table 1 sums up some of the characteristics of the three selected companies. Note that in each
case the driver of the adoption was the main criteria for selection. The size of the company
relates to the industry average in Scandinavia. The time when BB was implemented is an
estimation of the year a decision was made at a high level in the organization, not an exact
date. In two of the cases, different units introduced the idea at different points of time. For the
purposes of this study, we have named the three companies TOP, Controller and Daughter.




Driver of the BB



Parent company



Beyond Budgeting

Parent company

Information field



Financial services







BB from when?




Table 1. Key data on case companies.

Data collection
Data from the selected companies were collected in the following four ways:

We obtained access to reports and measures (KPIs) at company level and BU level.
All companies were followed for at least one year and changes in reports were
discussed and described.

Questionnaires were sent to controllers in Controller (100 questionnaires) and

Daughter (70 questionnaires). The companies identified relevant respondents. We did
not include TOP, due to its low number of controllers. The constructs were manly
adopted from earlier studies of the relevance of the critique of budgets (e.g. Libby and
Lindsey, 2009), but extended with more specific questions related to the role of the
controllers. The questionnaires were pre-tested and modified using Executive MBA


students. Response rates were 48% (48/100 in Controller) and 44.3% (31/70 in
Daughter). We followed up non-respondents twice, and did not find any significant
differences between early and late respondents.

We interviewed the CFO and a number of controllers. In TOP, the CEO and a BU
manager were also interviewed. We conducted four interviews in TOP, six in
Controller, and five in Daughter. The interviews took between 15 and 45 minutes, and
were transcribed.

We attended a workshop in each of the companies with the CFO and a group of
controllers. The workshops were organized in collaboration with the companies, and
different aspects of the findings from the surveys and interviews were discussed. The
workshops were not recorded, but notes were taken.

These four methods in combination served to strengthen the validity of our research. First, we
tried to understand the control system design by investigating the reports and KPIs currently
in use. We used the questionnaire to get an overall picture of BB and the new tools that
these companies were using. This was followed up by interviews with CFOs and controllers
for a deeper understanding of different roles. Finally, we presented and discussed some of the
findings at a meeting with controllers and the CFO. This significantly improved our
understanding of the reasons behind their adoption and adaptions of BB.
5. Findings
This section presents the findings in two parts. The first part outlines arguments for a
company choosing to adopt BB. The second part shows the changes that the companies
underwent after removing the budget, and the models in use at the time of our investigation.
Motives: The relevance of the budget critique
Our study of the reports obtained from the BUs showed that only two of the three companies
had in reality abandoned budgets. In Daughter, the budgets were still alive and well. In one of
the BUs, these budgets were even linked to a bonus plan. The CFO was aware of this, but did
not see any problems with it. His view was that as long as the BUs delivered on the KPIs
decided by headquarters, they could use whichever systems they wanted. However, the


budgets were not approved or discussed with headquarters controllers, as was common
practice prior to the decision to go beyond budgets.
Even more surprising was that headquarters controllers were found to be using cost budgets:
We have a cost budget. Not at first, but we decided to implement it. We do not agree on what Beyond
Budgeting is. I dont see the problem with cost budgets, on the contrary, it is great tool. Budgets are
difficult for items that are volatile and unpredictable. But your costs are, first of all, mostly fixed costs, or
you can in fact control them. Cost budget is an excellent tool, thus we have implemented it at
corporate.. Corporate controller, Daughter.

The budgets were hence removed in the first instance, but only at the corporate level. They
were then reintroduced at a later date, but only for costs and at a more aggregated level
(involving less detail) than was formerly the case. The CFO accepted this, but nevertheless
made it clear that the top management group and the board did not require a budget and did
not refer current costs to a budget in the course of their discussions. The same view was
expressed by the CFO in Controller:
My focus is on the financial results. The units may design systems with or without budgets, as long as
they deliver financial results. CFO, Controller

The main motive in Controller for adopting BB was the need for quicker responses to changes
in the business environment. The questionnaire was used to ascertain a more general view of
the budgeting critique in Controller and Daughter. Table 2 shows the results from this part of
the questionnaire.

[Daughter] Budgets improve allocation








33 %

26 %





67 %

20 %




22 %

61 %


of resources between BUs

[Daughter] Abandoning budgets gives
less control
[Controller] Abandoning budgets gives
less control *


[Daughter] Abandoning budgets gives


37 %

37 %



14 %

66 %



46 %

39 %



67 %

20 %


poor coordination between BUs

[Controller] Abandoning budgets gives
poor coordination between BUs *
[Daughter] Without budgets the BUs
can respond faster to changes in the
business environment
[Controller] Without budgets the BUs
can respond faster to changes in the
business environment

Table 2. Survey results on the relevance of the budget. Linkert scale 1 (strongly disagree) to 7
(strongly agree). Disagree = 1 - 3; agree: 5 - 7. Significant differences between companies are
marked with * (0.05 level, t-test).
The results show significant differences between the two companies. In Daughter, the great
majority (67%) of controllers agree with the statement that abandoning budgets will result in
less control, while the figure for Controller is 22%. The results regarding the use of budgets
for coordination is also consistent with the different views within the two companies.
However, the controllers in Daughter agree to some extent with the argument regarding
quicker responses to change.
The critique of the budget is firmly established in Controller. However, some controllers still
disagreed with the arguments in favour of BB. The interviews confirmed this:
The higher up you sit, the easier it is to be critical of budgets. At lower levels in the organization, it gives
you comfort to have budgets. Business performance manager, Controller

This shows that there were some differences in opinion between different groups of controllers.
A determining factor in this was their level within the organisation; another was experience:
Tenure and experience is important in relation to how people take changes in budgeting. Newcomers
have a fresher mindset that we try to exploit until they are eaten by the system. Financial controller,

Whilst resistance to change was seen in all three companies, this was less in evidence in TOP:
The only resistance we got was from the persons responsible for the budgeting process. They wondered
what they should do now. CEO, TOP


However, we did not find any BUs with budgets in TOP. There was no doubt about who
introduced the idea of abandoning budgets (the CEO), and unlike the two other companies,
the BUs did not get the option to retain the budgets. This decision was supported by the CFO:
I never really missed the budget. CFO, TOP

But not all of the BU managers were totally convinced:

I see that we are delivering good results. Better than ever.. However, I think it was useful to set up a
plan for the coming year. It gave us an opportunity to go through the whole business. BU manager,

Our meetings with CFOs and controllers also supported the general findings. There were no
discussions about returning to budgets in TOP and Controller. In Daughter, there was a clear
disagreement about budget at the corporate level, but full acceptance of local budgets.




Main motivation

Budgets are

The need to respond

The parent wants us


to changes

to implement BB


Removed yearly

Removed, then

budgets (voluntarily)

reintroduced budgets

Change in budget

at corporate level.
Kept budgets at BU
Tension / resistance

Some in the

Some, higher among

Strong support for

beginning / low

local controllers and


Table 3. Main motives, changes and sources of resistance in the three companies
The new models
In this section, we describe the main changes in the management accounting models. Included
here is a general scheme of how a management accounting system is designed. The design


characteristics are described according to the framework in figure 1. Models are used to
increase precision when discussing these changes, with tools and techniques being integrated
into the framework. Rolling forecasts, benchmarking and balanced scorecards are described in
BB literature as tools that are used in order fulfil the budget purposes (e.g. Hope and Frazer,
2003; Bogsnes, 2009). These tools can be both local and global, and continuous and
In TOP, the budgets really were removed from the all reports that we were shown. In the early
years (2000-2001), the company used the same report as before the change, only with a 0 in
the budget column. Later, a new report was designed and gradually refined. At the point of
investigation it looked as follows:





Change in %

Table 4. P/L Benchmarking report in TOP. Each BU has a column showing different revenue
and cost items, total profit or loss, and changes compared to previous years.
All 14 BUs were listed on one page every month. Some detailed revenue and cost items were
included. More details could always be asked for. There was full transparency between BUs,
and the reports were used by both the top management group and the board. They also
designed a bonus system based on relative improvements in the P/L compared to the same
period for the previous year.
This systematic benchmarking between BUs is in line with that of the Handelsbanken
example. One important difference is that Handelbanken ranked its BUs, whereas TOP did
not explicitly do this. TOP also benchmarked itself against other companies in the same
industry. This was done on a more ad hoc basis. They also introduced local customer


accounting systems, but no rolling forecasts (only a yearly aggregated forecast at corporate
level) or balanced scorecards.
While TOP was clearly informed by Handelsbanken and introduced a management
accounting system with low complexity, Controllers implementation of BB had obvious
similarities to that of Statoil. Consistent with the companys primary motivation for
implementing the new solution, the main new tool was rolling forecasts. Every quarter, a
report was produced containing a forecast for the next five quarters. The same solution was
introduced in Daughter. The difference between a forecast and a budget was in both cases
seen as the difference between a target (as in budgets) and a best estimate (forecast). Also,
in both cases, there was the intention to make the forecasts more aggregated (less detailed).
However, the distinctions become less and less clear over time, as shown in table 5.

[Daughter] Rolling forecasts are budgets 4

















times a year
[Controller] Rolling forecasts are budgets
4 times a year

Table 5. Rolling forecasts vs. budgets.

A majority of the controllers in Controller saw rolling forecasts as budgets four times a year
a view also shared by many of the controllers in Daughter. This was discussed at the
workshops. The need to explain variances between actuals and forecasts was seen as the main
factor in their taking up this viewpoint.
In the beginning, the forecasts were less detailed. Then they [BU managers] told us they needed to
explain why we were not hitting the forecasts. We couldnt. In the next forecast we included more
details. And now we are doing budget four times a year! Business performance manager, Controller

The other major tool related to budgets were balanced scorecards (BSC). Both Controller and
Daughter had versions of BSC. Table 6 shows the results from the survey.









[Daughter] BSC is a success in our company






[Controller] BSC is a success in our company






[Daughter] Top management is more

interested in financial performance measures






[Controller] Top management is more

interested in financial performance measures






[Daughter] Should focus on a lower number

of KPIs






[Controller] Should focus on a lower number

of KPIs







Table 6. Statements on the relevance of BSC

In both cases, there was a clear link between the BB initiative and BSC. In Daughter, the
version of the BSC was introduced by the parent company as part of the BB process.
However, the CFO confirmed that he saw this more as a tool to be used within the individual
BUs. His major concern was to ensure that each unit felt accountable for their performance.
Thus, he introduced a stronger focus on ROI, with less attention paid to the large set of nonfinancial performance indicators. A clear tension in the workshop was between the local BU
controllers and corporate management. The local controllers claimed that they had to follow a
system that was not used by the top management team. Corporate controllers also introduced
an activity-based management model as a part of the fixed core. It used a standard set of
activities for all BUs, and attempted to track resource consumption at an activity level. There
was a significant tension at the workshop between corporate controllers and BU controllers
regarding the use of this system. The CFO became involved, and he decided to abandon the
system in order to increase the focus on BU accountability and local autonomy.
In Controller, the BSC model got more attention at the corporate level. However, both the
local and the corporate controllers agreed that the number of KPIs was too high, and that the
relevance of many of them was too low. Table 7 summarizes some of the changes following
the BB initiative.






Main new tool


Rolling forecasts,

Rolling forecasts,

Balanced Scorecard

Balanced Scorecard,
Activity Based

Tension related to
the new solution


Some on the

High, between

relevance the new

Corporate and BUs

Table 7. Main changes following the BB initiative.

6. Discussion
This study aims at an improved understanding of what BB is. A clear finding seem to be
different solutions in different organizations. From a solution were they still are using budgets
to a case were there actually were no budget lookalikes. On the other hand there are also some
similarities. One is the redefinition of the fixed core of the management accounting system.
In the TOP case the budget were removed from the fixed core and replaced with
benchmarking and an increased focus on improvements in financial performance. The fixed
core was in this way reduced and gave room for more ad hoc customer profitability analyses
etc. This has clear similarities with the changes in the Daughter case. On the surface, the
solution is very different, where budgets are kept at local levels and reintroduced at corporate
level. However, the recent changes are based on re-defining a simplified fixed core without
budget and the activity based management system. The CFO also wanted to simplify the
rolling forecast process with more aggregated estimates, without involving the BUs. The
system structure of the Daughter case is shown in figure 2. Even the balanced scorecard is
moved to a local system, with an option to make some of the KPIs temporary. As for the
TOP case, an ad hoc customer profitability analysis was introduced, organized as a project
managed by corporate controllers. This was project was linked to the removal of the ABM
project, as it was seen as a more constructive way to use corporate controller resources
(CFO in Daughter).


Figure 2. The differentiated system structure in Daughter case.

While, both the TOP and Daughter company reduced the fixed core, the story was different in
the Controller case. The fixed core of the Controller company increased significantly. By
adding detailed rolling forecasts to the high level of KPIs there was not room for more local
systems. However, the critique of too detailed forecasts and too many KPIs may also lead the
Controller case towards a simplified fixed core.
The changing role of the controllers
The role of the controller is claimed to be in a state of transition, from dull scorekeeping
activities to more exiting and proactive business consulting (Burns and Baldvinsdottir,
2007). BB initiatives could be seen as consistent with such a change (e.g. Bogsnes, 2009).
The TOP version of Beyond Budgeting involves marginalizing some of the routine based
tasks of the controller. Improved efficiency is also the main argument in this case, but not by
introducing rolling forecasts, balanced scorecards or other solutions, but by replacing the
controllers with benchmarking and transparency.
In the two other cases the controllers were asked about changes in the controller role. First we
looked at the overall workload following the BB initiatives. The results are shown in table 8.
The Daughter company partly kept the budgets and introduced rolling forecast and BSC, and
thus it is not surprising to see mixed results regarding the total workload. For the Controller


case more than 50% of the controllers claimed that the workload increased significantly. This
was mainly explained by the increased work on rolling forecasts.

[Daughter] Abandoning budgets








35 %

48 %



19 %

72 %


reduces the controller workload

[Controller] Abandoning budgets
reduces the controller workload *

Table 8. Perceived changes in controller workload following BB initiative.

Diffusion and gains

The differences between the BB initiatives highlight a number of important issues in the
understanding of how and why management innovations diffuse to new locations. The first
has to do with motives for adopting new ideas.
In diffusion studies a two stage model is often adopted. This model claims that early adopters
seek efficiency and technical gains from innovations, while later adopters seek legitimacy
through social gains. Kennedy and Fiss (2009) argue that social and economic motivations
for adopting diffusing innovations are not mutually exclusive concerns; that is, wanting to
look good does not preclude also wanting to do better (p. 911). Thus, they challenge the
traditional diffusion model and claim that logic of efficiency and legitimacy are more
compatible than generally assumed and both motives can be found for early and late adopters.
All cases in this study are among the early adopters group, but it is difficult to classify their
motives in the economic or social gains dimension. On the one hand, they are all using the
efficiency argument, i.e. wanting to do better. It is not a matter of whether or not the
efficiency argument is important, but the content of it. In the Controller case the world is seen
from the controllers perspective. Efficiency for them is to be more involved, to perform more
important and intelligent tasks, in short to be adding more value to the company. This is done
by giving more room for creativity, by being more dynamic. This is not solved by decreasing
the workload of controllers, but by changing and increasing the workload by introducing new


tools. Thus controller efficiency is the motive for the controller driven diffusion of beyond
budgeting. This may of course also give them social gains.

The Daughter case seems to be an example of what Abrahamson (1991) would call a forced
selection. The BB initiative came from outside the organization and was not a part of an
imitation process. We observed only minor changes in the budgeting process, which indicates
that diffusion in this setting is problematic. On the other hand, the BB initiatives were
interrelated with other management accounting issues, like the role of forecasts and the
number of KPIs. This shows that it is not that easy to distinguish between ideas coming from
outside or inside the adopting organization and prompts rethinking of the classical model of
fashion and forced selection in the diffusion of management accounting innovations.

7. Conclusions
We have seen that Beyond Budgeting not necessarily means companies without budgets. The
most important finding in this study is that we need to decompose changes in order to
understand what is going on. The local global dimension play a significant role, and BB
initiatives may increase or decrease the fixed core in an organization.
Another contribution is the association between the dominating actors and what is adopted. In
two of the cases (TOP and Parent) the driver of the system were searching solutions for
increased accountability. The fixed core was streamlined to increase the focus on
improvements in financial performance. BUs were given autonomy to develop their own
local systems. In one case they did, in the other they did not. In the controller driven solution
things got more complicated. The logic of efficiency was different from the controller
This cross sectional case study also highlights a number of issues for future research. First of
all we still have little evidence of what Beyond Budgeting is. Broader cross sectional field
studies, including different setting and different industry could improve our understanding of
why companies abandon budgets and what they actually do instead. This is only a first


attempt and may together with Bourmistrov and Kaarbe (2013) provide a first indication one
what is going on. However, they are both describing companies with a Scandinavian origin,
and studies of companies in other settings should follow up this and other studies.
Another line of research is the link between Beyond Budgeting and Conventional Wisdom.
Why are textbooks ignoring new practices like Beyond Budgeting? Is it a time lag or a bias
against practice-defined concepts? Finally yet importantly, this paper shows a tension
between the Beyond Budgeting movement and Balanced Scorecard models. What are the
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The impact of control on trust and information sharing for outsourced

low contractibility activities
Tobias Johansson**, Sven Siverbo*a, Carolina Camn*
*Karlstad University, Sweden
**rebro University, Sweden

Corresponding author1

Contracting out publicly funded welfare services has become increasingly common. This also holds
for low contractibility activities such as education, care and health. Previous research theorizes that
this practice requires trust and information sharing which calls for trust-based control patters and
using accounting to create trust. At the same time the institutional environment demands market
orientation and formal control. This could be problematic since formal control may be a threat to
trust. In this paper we investigate the impact of inter-organizational controls results control,
behavior control and social control on trust and information sharing. We develop and test a
theoretical model with survey responses from 125 managers of privately provided elderly care units
in Sweden. Our results show that results control is positively associated with suppliers trust in
buyers and that behavioral and social control is positively associated with information sharing. We
also show that results control has an indirect effect on information through suppliers trust in buyers.
Key words: inter-organizational control, results control, behavior control, social control, trust,
information sharing, outsourcing, contracting out, public sector.2
JEL code: M4


Sven.Siverbo@kau.se, Karlstad Business School, Karlstad University, SE-651 88 Karlstad, Sweden

This work was supported by the Swedish Competition Authority


Many public sector organizations have problems with increasing costs and demands, e.g., due to an
ageing population (Roberts 2001; Lapsley & Schofield 2009; Cardinaels & Soderstrom 2013). In
several countries outsourcing and competitive tendering has been one response for restructuring
service delivery. The intention behind outsourcing at least rhetorically is to use the market
mechanism to reduce cost and increase productivity and quality in services (Brown & Potoski 2003a;
Siverbo 2004). Whether outsourcing has been good or bad for society is still debated; both
advantages and disadvantages have been reported (Romzek & Johnston 2005; Hodge 2000).
Some public sector responsibilities can been judged as challenging or even inappropriate to
outsource. The argument is that activities characterized by high task uncertainty, absence of
functional markets, political sensitivity and, sometimes, high asset specificity cannot be outsourced
without causing substantial transaction costs (Williamson 1985). Examples of such low contractibility
services are activities within education, health care, social care and elderly care (Brown & Potoski
2003b; Johansson & Siverbo 2011).
Still, these activities are contracted out in many countries, which entail challenges when it comes to
management accounting and control. On a general level it is necessary to have inter-organizational
management accounting and control systems to deal with cooperation and coordination challenges
(Dekker 2004; Caglio & Ditillo 2008). However, to be efficient, these systems must be adapted to the
specific control situation; in this case the task of controlling low contractibility activities. In previous
theorizing, trust based and (possibly) bureaucracy based control patterns have been suggested in this
control situation (Van der Meer-Koistra & Vosselman 2000). This means that the accounting and
control system, to be effective, should be designed to foster trust (Coletti et al. 2005; Caglio & Ditillo
2008; Vosselman & Van der Meer-Kooistra 2009; Anderson & Dekker 2010) and willingness to share
information (Jones 1999; Selnes & Sallis 2003; Cooper & Slagmulder 2004; Dyer & Hatch 2006;
Mahama 2006; Cker 2008; Brown et al. 2010; Dekker et al. 2013). However, our knowledge about
the relationships between inter-organizational controls and trust and information sharing when
outsourcing low contractibility activities is incomplete (Coletti et al. 2005; Vosselman & Van der
Meer-Kooistra 2009). Most research has focused on how the buying party controls its suppliers so
that they can be trusted. In this article we instead focus on the effect of control on suppliers trust in
their buyers and how this relates to information sharing in the buyer-supplier relationship.
Furthermore, rather than focusing on control, and most often formal control, as one concept we
differentiate between behavior, results and social types of controls and investigate their individual
effects on trust and information sharing.
We develop and test a theoretical model with survey responses from 125 managers of privately
provided elderly care units in Sweden. Our results show that results control is positively associated
with supplier trust in buyer and that behavioral and social control is positively associated with
information sharing. We also show that results control has an indirect effect on information through
supplier trust in buyer.
The rest of the paper is structured as follows. In the next section we define core concepts and
develop our theoretical model and hypotheses. In section 3 we describe our sample and survey
methodology. Section 4 contains our results. Section 5 completes the paper with discussion and


Theory and hypotheses

In Figure 1 we illustrate the overall theoretical model to be tested in the study.
[Figur 1 about here.]
The figure summarizes the theoretical discussion below. Our model builds mainly on frame theory
and relational signaling (Tenbrunsel & Messick 1999; Lindenberg 2000; Vosselman & Van der MeerKooistra 2009) as the base for linking management controls (behavior, result and social) to supplier
trust in buyer and the sharing of information in buyer-supplier relationships. The model contributes
by theorizing on the individual effects of different types of controls and place trust as an important
mediator between control and information sharing. Below we develop each path (hypothesis) in the
model in detail.
Inter-organizational control mechanisms
Researchers with an interest in outsourcing in the public sector have argued that efficient contracting
presupposes control, especially if the contractor is a for-profit company (Brown & Potoski 2003a;
Brown et al. 2006; Padovani & Young 2006). Based on agency theory and transaction cost theory, it is
assumed that post contracting control increases the likelihood that the contractor will perform well
(being aligned to contract agreements).
For this purpose, public sector buyers can use formal and less formal control mechanisms. Three
mechanisms or control constructs are commonly used in the inter-organizational control
literature: results control, behavioral control and social control (Langfield-Smith & Smith 2003;
Dekker 2004; Emsley & Kidon 2007; Kraus & Lind 2007; Langfield-Smith 2008; Cker 2008; Dekker &
van den Abbeele 2010; Cker & Siverbo 2011; Johansson & Siverbo 2011; Anderson & Dekker 2010).
Results control is when the buyer sets goals for the activity and the suppliers goal fulfillment is
evaluated. In this measurement and evaluation process, financial and non-financial accounting
information has a key role. Behavior control means securing a positive supplier behavior by specifying
rules and regulations in policy documents and procedures. Social control is harder to explicitly design.
It involves the measures the buyers take to create relations with the suppliers and induce vision,
mission and value commitment among them. Social control is attempts to affect the norms and
culture of the suppliers. The combinations of these three control mechanisms are expected to have
different emphasis depending on the control situation at hand.

Inter-organizational control mechanisms and suppliers trust in buyers

The reason why the relationship between inter-organizational control and trust is interesting is that
previous research on the public sector setting (Fernandez 2007; Fernandez 2009; Lamothe &
Lamothe 2012) and the private sector (Zaheer et al. 1998; Selnes & Sallis 2003) shows that trust
between buyers and suppliers is crucial for contractual performance. Research on the public sector
setting has paid attention to the control systems launched to monitor contractor performance
(Brown et al. 2006; Brown & Potoski 2003a; Brown & Potoski 2003b; Padovani & Young 2006) but it
has not primarily been geared towards elucidating how control affects trust. This is unfortunate
considering that trust (trust based control patterns) has been argued to be necessary when


outsourcing low contractibility activities (Van der Meer-Koistra & Vosselman 2000) and such
activities are often responsibilities of public sector organizations. Instead, the research conducted on
these inter-organizational control systems has almost exclusively focused on the determinants of
control scope and intensity (Brown & Potoski 2003a; Cristofoli et al. 2010; Marvel & Marvel 2007;
Amirkhanyan 2010).
Most researchers see trust as one partys psychological state of accepting vulnerability in situations
when it has positive expectations on the other partys behavior (Emsley 2008; Nooteboom 2002).
Also, a commonplace suggestion in extant research is that there are different dimensions of trust.
Goodwill trust is trust in another partys intentions and capability trust is confidence in a suppliers
competence. Institutional (or system) trust is the conviction that the failure of one party to comply
with the contract agreements will be dealt with in the legal system. Calculative trust (which may be a
contradiction in terms) is when a buyer or supplier calculates that the other party will honor an
agreement since the long term consequence for not doing so will be devastating for its reputation.
Moreover, it is common to separate organizational trust from interpersonal trust (Nooteboom 2002;
Kamminga & Van 2007; Langfield-Smith 2008; Barretta et al. 2008; Cker & Siverbo 2011).
Even if trust may be a key to outsourcing success, a common opinion is that outsourcing can hardly
be efficient unless the buyer imposes accounting and control arrangements on the supplier. There
are at least four reasons for this. First, even when the relationship is characterized by trust, controls
may be necessary for coordination purposes (Gulati & Singh 1998; Dekker 2004; Dekker 2008; Dekker
& van den Abbeele 2010). Second, trust is hardly a feature of a relationship that can be commanded;
if it is absent, accounting and controls are necessary (Dekker 2004; Caglio & Ditillo 2008). Third, and
related, it is hard to rule out that for-profit suppliers and to some extent also non-profit suppliers
(Amirkhanyan 2010) have their own missions and goals which give them quality shading incentives
which must be dealt with (Domberger & Jensen 1997; Hart et al. 1997). Fourth, and central to this
paper, control may be a prerequisite for trust since it increases the likelihood that the relationship
will survive the early phase of a business relation (Tomkins 2001). This gives the contracting parties
time to learn to trust each other (Coletti et al. 2005; Vosselman & Van der Meer-Kooistra 2009).
According to Vosselman and van der Meer-Koistra (2009), formal controls create thin trust which
over time may grow into genuine thick trust. This is shown in an experiment by Coletti et al. (2005)
that displays that control systems enhance the level of trust between collaborators.
A complicating circumstance, however, is the fact that a vast amount of studies warn that the
introduction of accounting and controls in inter-organizational relationships may instead impair trust
(Vosselman & Van der Meer-Kooistra 2009). The reason is that control may signal distrust in the
supplier and that the relationship is not supposed to build on trust (Davis et al. 1997; Coletti et al.
2005). According to Tenbrunsel and Messick (1999), control systems invoke business frames rather
than ethical frames in buyer-supplier relationships, which means that the contracting parties focus
on rational evaluation on benefits and costs with the cooperation rather than on social norms of
behavior. This implies that the use of inter-organizational controls that signal lack of trust in suppliers
will simultaneously lower suppliers trust in buyers. In other words, the design and use of the control
system sends relational signals to the suppliers that affect their trust in buyers (Lindenberg 2000).
In previous research it has been common to focus on buyers trust in suppliers, which is natural and
logical if the research task is, for instance, to explain how the buyer designs the control system. High


trust in the supplier leads to less extensive and intensive control. But since an ambition in this paper
is to explain the effect of control on trust, it is natural to focus on suppliers trust in buyers.
A clue to the general riddle about the relationship between control and trust is that individual control
mechanisms affect trust in dissimilar ways. From research on intra-organizational management
control it is evident that results control, behavior control and social control have different impact on
the controlled (Ouchi 1979; Merchant & Van der Stede 2012). Even though it is common to separate
results control, behavioral control and social control in inter-organizational research, to our
knowledge no one has investigated these mechanisms individual impact on trust. It remains to be
investigated when a control mechanism builds trust and when it impairs trust.
When theorizing about effects of different control mechanisms on trust in low contractibility settings
the natural starting point is general intra-organizational management control studies (Ouchi 1979;
Merchant & Van der Stede 2012) , private sector inter-organizational control research (LangfieldSmith & Smith 2003; Dekker 2004; Emsley 2008; Kraus & Lind 2007; Cker 2008; Anderson & Dekker
2010) and public sector inter-organizational control studies (Johansson & Siverbo 2011; Cker &
Siverbo 2011). A general agreement in these literatures is that results control is an unobtrusive
control mechanism which implies that suppliers are controlled from arms length distance. The buyer
does not interfere in the way results are obtained but the supplier is allowed freedom of action and
is potentially empowered. In most business relations, suppliers accept that buyers mistrust them to
some extent but not more than up to a threshold, i.e., legitimate mistrust (Lindenberg 2000). The
relatively unobtrusive character of results control means it is not likely to exceed what is considered
legitimate by the supplier. On the contrary, in low contractibility settings all involved actors would
probably agree that results control is a rather relaxed control mechanism. Therefore, it signals
capability and goodwill trust in the suppliers.
By giving relational signals, parties deliberately show their inclination to behave cooperatively and, thus, their trustworthiness (Vosselman & Van der Meer-Kooistra,
2009, p. 273).
The signaling effect of results control is that the buyer trusts the supplier and that an ethical frame
rather than a business frame is invoked (Tenbrunsel & Messick 1999). Accordingly the supplier is
inclined to trust the buyer.
Similarly, social controls may be expected to build trust between buyers and suppliers. Their informal
and educational character, directed towards affecting values, norms and culture makes them even
more unobtrusive than result controls. Also, a standard assumption in management control theory is
that social controls are more effective than any form of formal control in low contractibility settings.
Besides that this is explained by the difficulties involved in using formal controls in these settings, it is
also a consequence of a good match between control and control expectations. Managers and
employees in low contractibility settings commonly perceive themselves as stewards, that is,
collectivistic and trustworthy co-workers struggling for common goals. If controlled by social
controls, this attitude is likely sustained, but if extensive surveillance systems are implemented, they
will instead feel betrayed (Davis et al. 1997; Tenbrunsel & Messick 1999).
Behavioral controls are less likely to signal ethical cooperation frames and build trust. This control
mechanism is more intruding, direct and bureaucratic. Suppliers are directed to follow rules,


regulations and instructions that contrary to results and social controls signal lack of both
competence and goodwill trust in the suppliers. This increases the likelihood that the amount of
control exceeds what is perceived as legitimate by the suppliers. The signaling effect of behavioral
controls is that the buyer wants a business frame and does not fully trust the supplier. The supplier
adapts to this frame and accordingly sees no reason to trust the buyer. The reasoning leads to the
following hypotheses about the links between control and suppliers trust in buyers (see Figure 1).
H1: Results control is positively associated with suppliers trust in buyer.
H2: Behavioral control is negatively associated with suppliers trust in buyer.
H3: Social control is positively associated with suppliers trust in buyer.

Control and information sharing

Similar to the issue of trust, interacting parties inclination to share information has been put forward
as a prerequisite for successful cooperation (Jones 1999; Selnes & Sallis 2003; Cooper & Slagmulder
2004; Dyer & Hatch 2006; Mahama 2006; Cker 2008; Brown et al. 2010; Dekker et al. 2013). In a
similar way as trust, information sharing is connected to the system of inter-organizational controls
(Mahama 2006). Previous research has illustrated that bureaucratic (formal) controls lead to
substantial demands on information systems (Jones 1999) and that the formal controls that buyers
use to control supplier behavior means high demands on information sharing and information
processing capability (Cker 2008, p. 249). Mahama (2006) shows that performance measurement
systems (akin to results control) and socialization (equivalent with social control) substantially
influence information sharing. In this article we do not only focus on the sharing of information as an
integral part of the MAS, but se information sharing as a behavior. Information sharing means the
sharing (or intention to share) of information and experiences that is not necessarily explicit or
agreed upon in contracts, but that is of strategic and relationship-building character. This voluntary
behavior (Vosselman & Van der Meer-Kooistra 2009) is important for handling information impact
problems (Spekl, 2001) and creating value within relationships.
Contrary to Mahama (2006) we do not see why results control (performance measurement) should
be directly and positively associated with the sharing of strategic and sensitive information. As results
control is an arms length control where the supplier is given ample freedom of action and is
evaluated on specified performance criteria, there are no incentives for buyers or suppliers to
disclose and share additional information; at least as long as the supplier performs well. If something
the incentive for the buyers and the suppliers to share information beyond what is agreed in the
contract is negative. Producing and providing information comes to a cost and it cannot be ruled out
that the information would be used opportunistically by the other party. Therefore, results controls
do not directly stimulate information sharing beyond what is implied by measuring and monitoring
the result in itself.
However, results control may have an indirect effect on information sharing. Results control is
hypothesized to positively affect trust and previous research has proposed that trust is influential on
the readiness to share information (Caglio & Ditillo 2008; Anderson & Dekker 2010). The rationale is


that trust makes parties willing to disclose information that they would otherwise consider too
sensitive to share. Trust makes suppliers engage in constructive and creative dialogues (Selnes &
Sallis 2003) and creates a belief that the increased value of providing information will be fairly
distributed between the parties and not used opportunistically. Since buyers in established public
sector outsourcing relationships have few or no reasons to withhold information from suppliers
(after the competitive tendering), information sharing is mostly a matter of suppliers trust in buyers.
In the presence of trust, the suppliers calculate that sharing information is more beneficial than
withholding it (Selnes & Sallis 2003; Cker 2008). Both Cooper and Slagmulder (2004) and Dekker et
al. (2013) show that trust between parties makes them more inclined to develop inter-organizational
management techniques, which among other things means more open information flows (Van Slyke
2007). Therefore we pose the following hypothesis:
H4: Results control has a positive indirect effect on information sharing between buyers and
suppliers through suppliers trust in buyers.
Accordingly, since we hypothesize that social control is positively associated with suppliers trust in
buyers we expect social control to have an indirect effect on information sharing. However, there are
also reasons to assume a direct effect of social control on information sharing. Social controls enlarge
the arena for cooperation and give opportunities for giving information (Mahama 2006). They are
appreciated by suppliers since they are less threatening and can make it possible to bypass rigidities
in the formal control system (Cker 2008). In situations when suppliers experience that the
performance measurement system is incomplete they use the enlarged arena to share more
information (Cker 2008). Furthermore, most types of social controls are weak rather than strong
forms of sanctions which mean that they invoke normative frames of behavior that has been shown
to be positively related to cooperative behavior (Tenbrunsel & Messick 1999). This means we
hypothesize both a direct and an indirect effect of social control on information sharing.
H5a: Social control is positively associated with information sharing.
H5b: Social control has a positive indirect effect on information sharing through suppliers trust in
The relationship between behavioral control and information sharing is not much discussed in
previous accounting research, although the behavior control mechanism is included in the wider
formal control construct used by some researchers (Jones 1999; Cker 2008). While behavior control
is argued to reduce suppliers trust in buyers experimental research has shown that tight controls
(strong sanctions) produces cooperative behavior (sharing strategic and potentially sensitive
information being such an example) directly (Tenbrunsel & Messick 1999). When a calculative
business frame is invoked by behavior controls (see H2) the tightness of such controls has a positive
effect on cooperative behavior since the increased risk of getting caught by the supervised pushes
his/her incentive function (a cost-benefit calculus) towards cooperation rather than defection
(Tenbrunsel & Messick 1999). This holds regardless of the level of trust in the buyer. From these
arguments we expect that the intensity in use of behavior control is directly related to the level of
information sharing in buyer-supplier relationships. We pose the following hypothesis about the
association between behavior control and information sharing.
H6: Behavioral control is positively associated with information sharing.


The model includes two theoretically relevant control variables: the degree of supplier dependence
on the buyer and goal congruence between buyer and supplier. Supplier dependence in the buyer is
included since it may be a reason why suppliers decide to share information (Donada &
Nogatchewsky 2006; Kraus & Lind 2007; Cker 2008). Goal congruence between the parties, which is
often proxied by supplier profit motive (Fernandez 2009), is included as it may be an explanation for
trust. When the supplier is a non-profit organization, the contracting parties are more likely to share
mission and values and therefore trust each other (Van Slyke 2007).

Sample and data collection procedure
Our data consists of information about control and relationship characteristics in contracted elderly
care in Swedish municipalities. More precisely it concerns elderly care housing with somatic care. In
Sweden the care of elderly is the responsibility of local government. Sweden has 290 local
governments (municipalities). The municipalities can choose to deliver these services in-house or to
contract for them. The setting is inter-organizational, meaning that the responsible organization (the
municipality) is formally and legally separated from the providing organization. The choosing of
supplier is established by a competitive tendering process as laid down in the national procurement
act (Swedish Code of Statutes 2007:1091). As discussed and explained in the theoretical part we are
interested in the suppliers experiences and therefore data were collected among them.
Our first examination of public statistics from The National Board of Health and Welfare showed that
118 out of 290 municipalities in Sweden had contracted at least one elderly care establishment. The
number of outsourced suppliers varied from one up to more than eighty. In total there are 395
elderly care facilities that provide elderly care to Swedish local governments. Some of the facilities
have the same manager and since we did not want to ask any manager to complete more than one
questionnaire we only contacted 350 unit managers; mostly via information posted on company
The questionnaire was distributed in late 2012 and early 2013 and sent by e-mail with links to a webbased survey instrument. The response rate after sorting out unusable responses was 36 per cent
which is higher than normally generated in studies of local government contractual relationships
(Girth et al. 2012) and in studies of inter-organizational accounting and control in the private sector
(Dekker et al. 2013).
Before dispatch, the questionnaires were scrutinized by several research colleagues and pre-tested
by three elderly care managers. They suggested some improvements in content and wording. We
included a cover letter where we explained the purpose of the study and offered the respondents
access to our research results. We did not offer any financial incentives to the respondents, as we
thought this could affect the quality of the respondents answers. The third reminder contained a
new cover letter with a more extensive explanation of our research project and the importance of a
high response rate. A selection of non-respondents and respondents who had left many questions
unanswered was contacted by phone. During these conversations we learned that some did not want


to participate due to time constraints and others because they had changed their position or were
new to their position. Despite our efforts some respondents did not answer all questions.
An analysis of missing values showed that the proportion of cases with missing data was 25.6 per
cent and the overall proportion of missing values was 7.5 per cent. Littles MCAR test showed that
missing data were not randomly distributed (Chi-Square = 558.863, DF = 469, Sig. =.003), which
means that case wise deletion is not advisable since it may induce bias (Schafer 1999; Afifi et al.
2003). Instead, and assuming MAR, missing values were handled with the Expected Maximization
(EM) method for imputation (Hair et al. 2010) to make the data set less biased and to ensure
sufficient statistical power. A Comparison between a case-wise deletion and model-based
replacement is conducted in the analyses. To assess the potential influence of common method
variance, we employed the Harman one-factor test (Podsakoff & Organ 1986). The one-factor
solution accounted for 34 per cent explained variance indicating that common method variance is
not an obvious concern.

Our measure of result control is adapted from Dekker and Abbeele (2010) and Jaworski and McInnis
(1989) and reflects how the measurement and evaluation of output is designed. We use four items
that focus on the performance measurement and prevalence of goal and targets in the relationship.
A sample item is: the municipality measures and evaluates goal achievement.
Our measure of behavior control is also adapted from Dekker and Abbeele (2010) and Jaworski and
McInnis (1989) and reflects how the municipality uses and monitors behavioral constraints. We use
six items that focus on the use of rules, routines and regulations and the monitoring of the
compliance to them. A sample item is: the municipality requires frequent reports from us on
compliance with rules and regulations.
Social control is captured by asking questions about to what degree the municipality tries to socialize
with suppliers and impose values on them. We use two items that capture the extent to which the
municipality tries to socialize with suppliers by training and educating them (Chatman 1991) and
three items that capture the extent to which the municipality tries to impose (inform about) values
and visions on the suppliers (Simons 1995). A sample item is (to what extent): does the municipality
inform you about what the municipality considers acceptable behavior and acceptable values for this
To measure the suppliers trust in buyer, we used the scale adapted by Selnes and Sallis (2003),
previously used in several studies on inter-organizational relationships. The five items capture several
dimensions in trust, including goodwill, capability, organizational and interpersonal trust. Two
examples of items are: I believe the municipality will respond with understanding in the event of
problems and there is a general agreement in my organization that the contact people in the
municipality are trustworthy.
We used seven items to assess the degree of relationship information sharing (see appendix). The
measurement scale was developed by Selnes and Sallis (2003), who used it to measure one sub-


dimension of their relationship learning construct. One example of item is: we exchange information
on successful and unsuccessful experiences.
The control variable goal congruence is a dichotomous variable coded 0 if the supplier is a for-profit
organization and 1 if it is non-profit. The information was gathered from official statistics and the
suppliers webpages. Dependence is measured by a two item measurement scale developed by
Johansson and Siverbo (2011). We used a seven point Likert scale for all survey items. Descriptive
statistics for the measures is presented in Table 1.
[Table 1 about here.]

In this section we describe the technique of partial least squares (PLS) used to test the model,
disclose relevant information about the measurement model and presents the results of the
empirical test of the structural model.

Structural equation modelling: PLS

To analyze data we used a Partial least squares (PLS) method (Lohmller 1989; Wold 1982) and the
software SmartPLS 2.0 developed by Ringle et al. (2005). Contrary to variance-covariance based SEM,
PLS estimates the measurement model and the structural model simultaneously by using an iterative
OLS regression-like procedure where the aim is to minimize the residual variance of both observed
and latent variables (Hartmann & Slapnicar 2009). PLS structural modelling overcomes some of the
theoretical and estimation problems in traditional covariance structural models and is appropriate
when samples are small, stringent assumption of the distributional characteristics of raw data cannot
be made and research is exploratory (Wold 1982; Chenhall 2005).

Measurement model
The correlations between the variables is presented in Table 2 as well as the square root of the
average variance explained (AVE).
[Table 2 about here.]
The table shows that the control mechanisms are inter-correlated at levels between 0.41 and 0.62.
They are also fairly highly correlated with information-sharing, and results and behavior control are
correlated with trust. The control variables (not the control mechanisms) are not very correlated with
any of the other variables in the table.
Discriminant validity is achieved when no correlation between the focal variable and any other
variable is higher than the square root of the AVE for each variable (Fornell & Larcker 1981). The
words in bold diagonally in Table 2 show that all variables meet this criterion.
Discriminant validity also requires that each item loads higher on the variable it is supposed to
measure than on any other variable. Items of a variable should not overlap with other variables (Chin


1998). Table 3 displays the cross-loading of all items. All items load the highest on their own variable
indicating good discriminant validity.
[Table 3 about here.]
The table also shows that all variables have acceptable levels of convergent validity since all items
have high or moderate factor loadings on their own construct. This is further confirmed by
Cronbachs alphas above 0.6, AVE statistics above 0.5 and composite reliability well above 0.7 for all
constructs (Chin 1998; Hair et al. 2010). See Table 1 for details.

Structural model
The structural model is evaluated by the explained variance in the endogenous variables, reported as
R2 values, and the significance of standardized beta-coefficients, which are equivalent with path
coefficients (Chin 2010). Bootstrapping is used to evaluate significance levels. We applied the
procedure of using 5 000 samples with replacement. In Figure 2 and Table 4 the results of PLS related
to the structural model are presented.
[Figure 2 about here]
[Table 4 about here]
Table 4 shows the R2 values for the endogenous variables and thus the predictive power of the
structural model (Chin 2010). For both trust and information sharing the PLS model explains a
considerable degree of the variance (29% and 52% respectively).
As expected, results control is positively related to supplier trust in buyer, giving strong support for
H1 (B=0.407, p<0.001). However, neither behavior control nor social control is related to supplier
trust as predicted. This means that we cannot confirm H2 and H3. The hypothesized relationship
between social control and information sharing is significant (B=0.255, p<0.001) as well as the
association between behavior control and information sharing (B=0.160, p<0.05). This means H5a
and H6 are confirmed. Furthermore, in the table and the figure, a strong and significant effect of
suppliers trust in buyers on information sharing is reported (B=0.403, p<0.001).
To test the indirect effects we conduct a bootstrap test which is more powerful and rigorous than the
commonly used Sobel test (Zhao et al. 2010). For this we used the Preacher and Hayes SPSS Macro
for multiple mediation (Preacher & Hayes 2008). In the test, latent variable scores from PLS were
used. The bootstrap results for the indirect effect tests (covariates as in figure 1 included) show that
suppliers trust in buyers fully mediates the relationship between results control and information
sharing. The indirect effect is positive (B=0.173) and statistical significant (95% confidence interval).
Since the direct effect of results control on information sharing is insignificant when the mediator is
included the theorized mediating effect is confirmed and there is low risk of omitted variables in the
theoretical framework (Zhao et al. 2010). The same test shows that the hypothesized indirect effect
of social control on information sharing is not confirmed. The indirect effect is weakly positive
(B=0.0219) put not statistical significant (95% confidence interval). Consequently, H4 is supported but
not H5b.


Finally, from Table 4 it is clear that neither dependence nor goal congruence has any significant
impact on its dependent variables.
To assess the EM-imputation made to the data set we run the same analyses with case-wise deletion
(N = 93). The results were basically the same regarding path coefficients and statistical significance.
Generally, case-wise deletion leads to somewhat stronger (std. betas) structural relations, indicating
that the model-based (in this case the more appropriate) imputation technique leads to more
conservative conclusions.

Discussion and conclusions

The outsourcing of non-technical core public sector activities such as education, healthcare, social
care and elderly care and other soft operations has increased in many countries. This is interesting
since many scholars question if these (low contractibility) activities can be contracted out without
causing substantial transaction or agency costs (Gulati & Singh 1998; Brown & Potoski 2003b; Brown
et al. 2006; Padovani & Young 2006; Kraus & Lind 2007; Dekker 2008; Johansson & Siverbo 2011). An
alternative would be to develop trust-based control patterns (Van der Meer-Koistra & Vosselman
2000) but also within this pattern some degree of formal inter-organizational control would exist, not
least as a consequence of demands in the institutional environment, and this could harm a trustbased pattern (Johansson and Siverbo, 2011). The main thrust of this article is to contribute to the
literature on the accounting-control-trust nexus of inter-firm relationships (e.g. Vosselman and van
der Meer-Kooistra, 2000, 2009; Dekker et al., 2013) by focusing on the effects of different types of
control, rather than control (or accounting) in general terms, and by posing supplier trust in buyer as
an important mediator between control and information sharing..
Our study confirms that there is a positive association between results control and suppliers trust in
buyers. In this respect, results controls in low contractibility settings stand out as a control device
with a positively signaling effect on suppliers. The unobtrusive character of result controls means
that suppliers experience capability and goodwill trust, which is returned (Davis et al. 1997; Coletti et
al. 2005; Lindenberg 2000) and that the relationship is within an ethical frame rather than a business
frame (Tenbrunsel & Messick 1999). Contrary to our expectation, however, social controls have no
positive effect on suppliers trust. A speculation is that social controls are less visible for the suppliers
and therefore not as effective for relationship signaling. Neither have behavior controls the
hypothesized negative association with suppliers trust. It is possible that the (negative) relationship
signaling of behavior control is over-emphasized in our theory. Other studies have indicated that
behavior controls may be appreciated by the controlled since it reduces uncertainties and
ambiguities (Oliver & Anderson 1994; Cker & Siverbo 2014). These findings come from studies of
salespersons and it remains to be investigated if the same effects occur among staff in low
contractibility settings where the controlled often belong to occupation groups that treasure
professional autonomy. It could also be problematized how to view upon the difference between
trust, lack of trust and distrust (Luhman, 1979). Anyhow, the existence of one positive association
and the non-existence of negative connections between inter-organizational controls and suppliers
trust means our study is more consistent with the positive view of inter-organizational control


presented in Coletti et al. (2005) and less with the more negative stance taken by Tenbrunsel and
Messick (1999).
As expected, behavior controls and social controls are positively and directly related to information
sharing. However, the underlying explanation for their respective effect is most likely fundamentally
different. Social controls create possibilities for suppliers to provide a more qualified representation
of their activities and outcomes through personal contacts and an enlarged arena (Cker 2008) and
are often constructed as soft sanctions (Tenbrunsel & Messick 1999), while information sharing
through behavior controls is more forced in its character (Tenbrunsel & Messick 1999). In this respect
they seem to be two equifinal paths to information sharing. Future research could benefit from
studying under which circumstances (moderators) they may not be and if or how they differ in
effects on other outcome variables.
Turning to the indirect effects of control we first note the positive association between supplier trust
and information sharing, which is in accordance with our theoretical expectation and means that
when suppliers trust their buyers, their readiness to share information increases (Zaheer et al. 1998;
Selnes & Sallis 2003; Fernandez 2007; Dekker & van den Abbeele 2010; Dekker et al. 2013). This has
beneficial consequences for the relationship such as facilitated coordination, mutual adaptation,
more innovation and better understanding of each other (Selnes & Sallis 2003; Cooper & Slagmulder
2004; Dyer & Hatch 2006; Mahama 2006; Brown et al. 2010; Dekker et al. 2013). The established
indirect effect of results control on information sharing through suppliers trust in buyers clearly
speaks in the favor of result controls in this context. It also means that all three control mechanisms
drive information sharing, although one of them indirectly. Consequently, we have increased our
understanding of through which mechanisms information sharing is increased in contractual
To sum up, we confirm some theoretical expectations about the relationships between different
control mechanisms and variables theorized to be important antecedents to contractual
performance. Our study of inter-organizational control in low contractibility settings gives three main
contributions to the general literature on accounting and control in inter-organizational
relationships. First, we theorize and show that different inter-organizational control mechanisms
have dissimilar effects on trust and information sharing; variables expected to be important
performance antecedents in contractual relationships. More specific, we confirm our initial
expectation that different control mechanisms affect suppliers trust in buyers in different ways. This
is a contribution to the literature on the relationship between control and trust. It has been proposed
in previous research that outsourcing of low contractibility activities requires trust-based control
patterns (Van der Meer-Koistra & Vosselman 2000). According to this study, result controls appear to
be most suitable for building contractual trust. Second, contrary to what sometimes is cautioned in
previous research (Davis et al. 1997; Tenbrunsel & Messick 1999; Vosselman & Van der MeerKooistra 2009) , inter-organizational controls do not seem to impair suppliers trust in buyers or their
willingness to share information. On the contrary, control based on setting goals for the activity and
using financial and non-financial accounting information for evaluating goal fulfillment (results
control) is highly associated with suppliers trust in buyers, which in turn increases contracting
parties inclination to share important information. The one control mechanism assumed to be
harmful in our context of low contractibility activities (behavioral control) showed to be no threat to
suppliers trust in buyers and directly and positively related to information sharing. Third, contrary to


most previous studies we theorize about and measure suppliers trust in buyers and show that this
form of trust is highly influential on the inclination to share important strategic and operational
Our study is not without limitations. First, the cross-sectional research design inhibits us from
drawing causal inference. However, our results are supported by theorizing that is in line with what
has been argued in the inter-organizational literature. Our contribution is to combine theorizing on
the relationship between control, suppliers trust and information sharing. We rely on self-reported
measures from single respondents, which makes the influence of common method variance a
potential concern (Podsakoff et al. 2003). We have taken several steps to reduce such influence
including ensuring confidentiality, pre-testing on practitioners, careful design of wordings in the
questionnaire and testing for lack of substantial uni-dimensionality by the Harmans one-factor test.

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Appendix: The constructs.

Results control (RC1-4)(degree of concurrence, 1-7):
The municipality has established specific performance goals for the service that you provide.
The municipality monitors the extent to which your organization meets the performance goals.
If you do not meet the performance goals, you are required to explain yourselves to the municipality.
The municipality provides feedback about the extent to which we achieve our goals.
Behavior control (BC1-7) (degree of concurrence, 1-7):
We are monitored based on the extent to which we follow established rules and procedures (for
example routines and work instructions) (excluded in construct).
The municipality evaluates rules and procedures that we use for a given task.
The municipality revises (modify) rules and procedures when desired results are not obtained.
The municipality gives us feedback on the manner in which we accomplish our performance goals.
The municipality demands periodically reports on compliance to rules and procedures.
To evaluate our working methods the municipality demands us to report periodically.
There are sanctions if we do not comply with agreed rules and routines.
Social control (SC1-5)(to what extent; 1-7):
Do supplier personnel participate in the municipalitys educational programs (which aim to inform
about the municipalitys objectives, expectations and norms)?
Do supplier personnel attend gatherings and meetings that the municipality organizes to create and
develop relational bonds?
Does the municipality inform you on what the municipality deems acceptable behavior and norms for
your service?
Has the municipality described values, aims and objectives for the service that you should follow (for
example, vision and mission documents, general policies, value documents)?
Does the municipality communicate values to influence you as a provider?
Suppliers trust in buyer (concur to what degree, 1-7):
In our organization we believe the municipality will respond with understanding in the event of
In our organization we trust that the other organization is able to fulfill contractual agreements.
In our organization we trust that the municipality is competent at what they are doing.
There is general agreement in my organization that the municipality is trustworthy.
There is general agreement in my organization that the contact people in the municipality are
Information sharing (We refer to the supplier and buyer. Concur to what degree, 1-7):
We exchange information on successful and unsuccessful experiences.
We exchange information related to changes in end-user needs, preferences, and behavior.
We exchange information related to changes in the technology and work methods of the focal
We exchange information as soon as possible of any unexpected problems.
We exchange information on changes related to our two organization's strategies and policies.
We exchange information that is sensitive for both parties, such as financial performance and
company know-how.


Table 1. Descriptive statistics.

Results control
Behavior control
Social control
Goal congruence
n = 125



Me Medi
5.7 6.5
5.2 5.6
4.8 5.3
5.4 5.8
4.6 4.5



ach @






Table 2. PLS correlations.

Results control
Behavior control
0.62 0.82
Social control
0.41 0.48 0.85
0.52 0.42 0.30 0.87
Information sharing 0.53 0.53 0.50 0.60 0.81
0.16 0.09 0.06 -0.06 0.04 0.84
Goal congruence
-0.03 -0.14 -0.11 -0.01 -0.09 0.02 1
Notes: Diagonal elements represent the square root of the average variance extracted (AVE).


Table 3. Cross-loadings.

Results control_1
Results control_2
Results control_3
Results control_4
Behavioral control_1
Behavioral control_2
Behavioral control_3
Behavioral control_4
Behavioral control_5
Behavioral control_6
Behavioral control_7
Social control_1
Social control_2
Social control_3
Social control_4
Social control_5
Information sharing_1
Information sharing_2
Information sharing_3
Information sharing_4
Information sharing_5
Information sharing_6
Information sharing_7
Goal congruence

Results control

Behavioral control

Social control


Information sharing


Goal congruence


























































































































































































































Table 4.
Paths from

Paths to

0.117 (1.091)
0.162 (1.715)*
0.255 (3.222)***
0.403 (4.395)***

Results control
0.407 (3.784)***
Behavior control
0.142 (1.181)
Social control
0.063 (0.661)
Suppliers trust
Information sharing
0.013 (0.167)
Goal congruence
0.026 (0.394)
n = 125. * p < 0.05 (one-tailed). **p < 0.01 (one-tailed). *** p < 0.001 (one-tailed).

Figure 1: Hypotheses of direct and indirect effects.


H1, H4

trust in buyer

H4, H5b


H3, H5b

Social control



Figure 2. Structural model results.




trust in buyer




Social control


n = 125. *p < 0.05 (one-tailed). **p < 0.01 (one-tailed). *** p < 0.001 (one-tailed). a within a 95%
confidence interval.


Evidence of differences in attitudinal
patterns among lending officers



The unusually complex boundary role of the loan officer
The face of the bank in the eyes of customers in need of a loan
Advisor to customer on suitability of financial products
Responsible for loan risk exposure
Part of a team
Financial products salesman?

Previous research has focused on the credit approval aspect

Capacity for rational evaluations of the risk
Risk appetite and sense of responsibility

Little research on the motivation of loan officers to perform


Support for incentive-based compensation motivated by popular agency

theory (see review by Baiman 1990). Financial incentives needed to

motivate cooperative behavior in situations with high information
Basu et. al. (1985) emphasize that salespeople tend to work in a context
of inherent unpredictability. The assumptions of agency-theory are
suggested to be particularly applicable to salesman behavior as a result.
To deal with salesforce heterogeneity, research on sales quotas (Lal & Staelin 1986;

Rao 1990) and relative incentives, i.e. sales contests (e.g. Kalra & Shi 2001; Murthy &
Mantrala 2005)

However, in non-sales environments there is little empirical support that

incentive-based compensation improves performance. Indeed, some

studies show decline in performance
E.g. Arkes et al. (1986); Ashton (1990); Bonner et al. (2000)


Organizational commitment
Mowday et al. (1979): An

employees identification with and

involvement in the organisation

Affective commitment
Porter et al. (1974); Angel and

Perry (1981) saw two dimensions:

Meyer et al. (1990) argued for a

second type of commitment

Continuance commitment
Perceived cost of leaving the

I.e. the opposite of the intention to


Values: Strong belief in and

acceptance of organizational goals

and values
Effort: Willingness to exert

considerable effort on behalf of the




Chong & Eggleton (2007)
Relationship between incentive-

Evidence of positive correlation between

high incentives and performance
- in high and low information asymmetry situations

based compensation and

Managers with low organizational

commitment: positive correlation

Managers with high organizational

commitment: no relationship
when the assumptions of standard

agency theory are relaxed, the role

of an incentive-based
compensation scheme is not



Low value OC


p = 0.006

High value OC



Low effort OC


p = 0.039

High effort





Procedural Justice

(Leventhal et al. 1980):

Are applied consistently across

people and time,

Are free from bias,

Ensure that accurate

information is collected and

used in making decisions,

Involve some grievance system,

Conform to personal or prevailing

standards of ethics, and

Ensure that the opinions of various

groups affected by the decision

have been taken into account.

Lau and Buckland (2001):

Financial metrics results in higher

justice perceptions; objective and

Nonfinancial metrics are perceived

as relatively subjective and biased

Lau and Moser (2008)

Nonfinancial metrics result in

higher justice perceptions, ;

complete and accurate
Financial metrics regarded as

narrow and rigid



Outcome Justice
Based on Equity Theory (Adams

1963, 1965)

inequity distress: ratio of ones

outcome (reward) compared to

ones input (contribution) is
unequal to the corresponding ratio
of a comparison other

Tyagi (1982):
need to achieve equity might have

a greater impact on salesperson

motivation to perform than the
desire to maximize economic gains

Fair process effect

(McFarlin and Sweeney 1992):

Employees perceptions of

procedural justice are positively

related to their perceptions of
distributive justice



Sholihin, Pike (2009):


Confirming and refining

conclusions from Lau et. al (2008)

Perception of the procedural

justice of performance evaluation

is indirectly related to
performance via organizational


Trust In


Procedural justice
Direct relation with organizational



Also indirectly via trust in

superior, and via outcome justice



Procedural Justice

(Leventhal et al. 1980):

Are applied consistently across

people and time,

Are free from bias,

Ensure that accurate

information is collected and

used in making decisions,

Involve some grievance system,

Conform to personal or prevailing

standards of ethics, and

Ensure that the opinions of various

groups affected by the decision

have been taken into account.

Lau and Buckland (2001):

Financial metrics results in higher

justice perceptions; objective and

Nonfinancial metrics are perceived

as relatively subjective and biased

Lau and Moser (2008)

Nonfinancial metrics result in

higher justice perceptions, ;

complete and accurate
Financial metrics regarded as

narrow and rigid



Outcome Justice
Based on Equity Theory (Adams

1963, 1965)

inequity distress: ratio of ones

outcome (reward) compared to

ones input (contribution) is
unequal to the corresponding ratio
of a comparison other

Tyagi (1982):
need to achieve equity might have

a greater impact on salesperson

motivation to perform than the
desire to maximize economic gains

Fair process effect

(McFarlin and Sweeney 1992):

Employees perceptions of

procedural justice are positively

related to their perceptions of
distributive justice


Financially-driven pattern
Outcome fairness is more

important than procedural fairness

Incentive-based compensation

motivates better performance

Financial indicators are considered

more fair than non-financial

Organizational commitment

limited to economic alignment

Socially-driven pattern
Procedural fairness is more

important than outcome fairness

Incentive-based compensation

reduces motivation to perform

Non-financial indicators

considered more fair than financial

Organization commitment has

potential to encompass
organizational values



Performance management system impacts team dynamics and ultimately

team composition

Organizational focus on financial indicators gives greater influence to employees with

financially driven pattern

Incentive-based compensation and sales contests are introduced, partly due to

pressure from employees with financially driven pattern

Socially driven pattern employees perceive management system as unfair, resulting in

low organizational commitment, trust issues, poor performance and ultimately

intentions to quit.

Reintroduction of non-financial indicators for performance evaluation and de-

emphasis of incentive-based compensation and sales contests produces trust issues

and poor performance among financially driven employees, who perceive the new
performance management system as unfair


Established early 1800

The loan officer is the banks face

One of the larger commercial banks in

Their job should be based on the

Norway, with 1200 staff members

Customer base 65/35, retail and
corporate market respectively
Return on equity has shrunk from
approximately 24% in 2006 to 13% in
New vision 2013
We intend to be the recommended
bank. This vision entails a weighty
commitment to our customers,
partners, staff and EC holders. To fulfil
this vision we must strive continuously
to improve ourselves and to stay
abreast of market and customer needs.

banks vision
The banks financial goals are
increased RoE and market share
through increased customer
The performance evaluation system
should facilitate the loan officers
ability to achieve these goals
Team-work is emphasised as a key
factor to achieve the goals of the
bank and increase business results


Eight interviews
Initial categorisation
4 high performers (Group 1)
2 middle performers (Group 2)

2 low performers (Group 2)

Second categorisations
Financially-driven pattern
Socially driven pattern

Themes explored in the

Team vs. individual rewards/efforts

Second categorisation
Performance management system

impact on team dynamics



The change was (partly) a

reaction to the financial crisis

The bank reflected a desire of

changing the prevalent sales

culture, i.e. less focus on
individual performance than
Individual vs. team based

From Bonus Card to Balanced

From departmental (only) to

individual scorecards (in

Pre-change, basis for

performance pay mainly based

on individual sale
Post-change, basis for

performance pay was extended

to include more team based




Before the change

After the change









Max payout
per year


Max payout
per year


Allocation of performance pay

due to team performance done by
Individual performance not linked
to team performance

Allocation of performance pay

due to team performance split
evenly between employees
Team performance goals need to
be gained for before individual
performance based pay falls out



Loan officers with medium and lower sales performance
Positive effect on sales

Loan officers with very low sales performance

Weak positive effect on sales

Loan officers with the highest sales performance

No systematic effect on sales



Preferance for the original performance system
Focus on individual performance is motivating and representing performance

more fairly
Team performance is seen de-motivating

Free riding is mentioned several times



Preferance for the changed performance system
Team performance is seen as motivating and representing the performance

more fairly
Free riding never mentioned



1a) Financially driven pattern
Outcome fairness is more

important than procedural fairness

Incentive-based compensation

motivates better performance

Financial indicators are considered

more fair than non-financial

Organizational commitment

limited to economic alignment

I need the extraordinary rewards, like

the trip to New York for the top

performers. I get excited about it. I
need the carrot. But now, when theyve
taken it away, what carrot should I
attach myself to now? (1)
If I dont have the success I deserve, Ill
leave. Some people are unable to
perform, in a business like this? If I had
not been successful, I would have
changed job. Never would I have sat
here. But we are different. (1)
When the focus on team rewards were
increased there were some who
cheered: yes, now we will get a bonus,
the ones who performed poorly. And I
said: yes, you can thank me for that.
So Im a bit crossed about that. (1)



1b) Socially driven pattern
Procedural fairness is more

important than outcome fairness

Incentive-based compensation

reduces motivation to perform

Non-financial indicators

considered more fair than financial

Organization commitment has

potential to encompass
organizational values

Our performance is measured in

relation to increase in sales volume, not

on how we carry out our working
tasks. It is a lot that isnt cached in in
this type of performance evaluation, and
it doesnt really say much about how
you perform in your job. (2)
I want to succeed anyway. Im not saying
the bonuses are irrelevant. Of course it
matters, reward matters. But at the
same time, my performance would have
developed positively whether the
reward had been there or not. Because
I want to prosper, I want to become
better. But it is clear that if you get a
pretty nice little reward for it as well
one is motivated by it. (2)



2) Performance management system

impacts team dynamics and ultimately

team composition

Organizational focus on financial indicators

gives greater influence to employees with
financially-driven pattern

Incentive-based compensation and sales

contests are introduced, partly due to pressure
from employees with financially-driven pattern

Socially-driven pattern employees perceive

management system as unfair, resulting in low
organizational commitment, trust issues, poor
performance and ultimately intentions to quit.

Reintroduction of non-financial indicators for

performance evaluation and de-emphasis of
incentive-based compensation and sales
contests produces trust issues and poor
performance among financially-driven pattern
employees, who perceive the new performance
management system as unfair

My selling performance is because of my activity level. Its

twice as big as many others. I put the hours in. (1)

We look after customers that are looking for services

other than sales, we take care of customers that are
dissatisfied for some reasons, and it is not always the
wrongdoings of one self we take care of. So it is tiring
when all focus is on sales, and new sales. (2)

I think, most people are motivated by sales. Now, I cant

speak for those who perform badly, well its hard to say.
We have a sales culture, so we, we are the motivated
ones. But certainly there are many who are negative to
the sales culture. (1)

The individual sales focus creates solo riders. They are

more concerned about reaching their own rewards than
helping other to reach their goals, to relieve a pressure
others may be experiencing, or sharing when you have
more than enough. New employees may have lesser to
do, and others may have far too much on their plate. And
they dont share because they want to make sure they can
reach their individual goals.




Management at distance
the control gap in hospital mergers?
Work in progress
Draft of paper to
TBSs yearly workshop in Management Accounting and Control
Stjrdal, 14-16 October 2014

Elsa Solstad,
Harstad University College, Norway
Inger Johanne Pettersen
Trondheim Business School, Norway

Coordination between organizations and the challenges of control across organizational
boundaries have been problematized both among researchers (Cker and Siverbo, 2011; van
der Meer-Kooistra and Scapens, 2008; Dekker, 2004; Hkansson and Lind; 2004), and among
policymakers the last decades. There is an increasing and general concern about the interorganizational control problems facing the reforming public sector. Cooperation between
public sector organizations has become increasingly more important as different forms of interorganizational relationships have emerged from the international reform initiatives in this
sector. New control problems arise when services are to be coordinated between autonomous


units. Especially in the welfare sectors we observe that health care services are produced in
collaboration between two or more public and/or private units.
In order to face such coordination problems, mergers of hospitals into large units have
been observed as emerging tools in US and in most European countries. However, there is great
uncertainty among researchers and healthcare officials as to the effects of increased hospital
consolidation. Proponents of hospital mergers emphasize that such reorganization will result in
lower costs and greater efficiency, while skeptics of hospital mergers believe that, due to the
complexity of these services will actually increase patient costs, mainly because of increased
administrative staffs and management control challenges (Gaynor, Laudicella and Propper,
Our study does not deal with the effects of public hospital mergers, as our focus is on
the internal management aspects of mergers. Our assumption is that a study of internal elements
may increase our understanding of why many mergers often fail to produce the expected
positive effects. Mergers between hospitals will often imply management accounting and
control at distance. This means that the administrative top managers are located at one of the
hospitals involved in the merger, whereas the other merging entities are located somewhere else
and often far from the mother hospital. Consequently, management control will be performed
at distance for some of the entities while top managers will be close to the departments in the
mother hospital. Distance is one important contextual element which affects the relationship
between managers and their employees (Chenhall, 2003). Consequently, distance is also a
contextual determinant when managerial tasks such as coordination and control are to be
performed. Further, when the context such as distance changes, we might expect that this
change also may change elements in the relations between managers and employees in merging
hospitals. On this background, our research question is how do clinical managers and


professionals in hospitals perceive their relations with top managers at a distance when contexts
are changing?
Distance between top managers and the professional staff may affect these actors in the
merged hospitals when it comes to their perception on how management is performed, what are
legitimate management practices and what should be emphasized in such practices. One
important frame of the reforms which have driven the mergers is the rationalist logic based on
managerial and businesslike principles. This managerial logic is often in contrast to the
professional working life in the hospital, and may therefore be in conflict with both the identity
and values of the professional employees in hospitals. In professional service organizations like
hospitals, we know that the decisions are legitimized through professional implementation and
influence. When analyzing the views expressed by professional staff in hospitals, we have to
be aware of the differences between the administrative logics and the professional norms
guiding the actions of doctors and nurses in the hospitals.
The setting for the case studies presented here is quite unique. The two hospitals studied
(hospital 1 and hospital 2), were merged into one independent unit in 2002 together with another
small hospital. One of the hospitals in our study had at that time the role as the main actor
and housing the top management group (hospital enterprise 1). The merged hospital
experienced fundamental intra-organizational conflicts, especially vertically between the top
and the operational levels in the three merging units. Consequently, the board of the regional
health authorities decided to split up the merged hospital in 2007 due to these internal conflicts,
internal unrest and escalating budget deficits (Regional Health Authority, 2006). At the same
time, a new merger was constructed based on political decisions, and the two hospitals were
merged with the largest university hospital in the region, while the third hospital was included
into a central hospital in another geographical unit.


In order to follow the two case hospitals and analyze the perceived changes in the
managerial practices, we made a follow up survey study in 2013 to compare a survey from 2005
in the two case hospitals. We also conducted interviews among respondents in the merged
hospitals during spring 2014 in order to compare the 2005 interviews. The empirical data
therefore consists of a longitudinal study in the case hospitals with the possibility to compare
perceived experiences among the staffs working in the hospitals both in 2005 and 2013/14.

Previous research has questioned how management reforms in hospitals have affected
the operation of clinical practice (Jacobs, 2004; Lapsley, 2007), while other studies refer to
different practices of clinicians in hospitals (Llewellyn, 2001; Model et.al. 2001; 2007;
Kurunmki, 2004, Jacobs, 2005; Lehtonen , 2007; Martiniussen and Magnussen, 2011). Our
main findings are that horizontal/lateral coordination is perceived as functioning well, whereas
vertical control is perceived as more or less ill-functioning independent of distance. We base
our study mainly on a theoretical framework focusing on inter-organizational controls. This
study contributes to existing knowledge and research in this field as we highlight the
longitudinal perspective in changes of the vertical and horizontal management control at
distance in mergers.
The paper is structured as follows. First, we describe the theoretical framework.
Thereafter the research setting and research methods are presented. The empirical findings are
discussed and finally, the main findings are analyzed and discussed.


Theoretical framework
A merger may according to our view be defined as a transaction in which two or more hospitals
combine most or all of their assets and competences to create a third entity, the merged unit,
and thus, resulting in a change of control for all hospitals. Such merger introduces new lines
of authority, which in principle may induce longer lines of command between the top
management and the professional staffs. These mergers follow the traditionally management
control practices, which have been designed for line organizations to allocate accountability
between managers at different levels. In such contexts we may talk about action at distance
(Robson, 1992: 691); While distance in this formulation is the fundamental problem for action
and control, it is also a source of power that those who act upon a setting through
power/knowledge are distanced from that setting.
This traditional view is challenged by the introduction of the horizontal dimensions,
which focus on the support of decisions and control between units in lateral relations, such as
hospitals. Here the main task is to manage activities in a non-hierarchical and lateral sense,
introducing aspects of process orientation, which is related to inter-organizational management
control. In this context, the clinical department is central. Consequently, mergers based on
vertical and formal lines of authority, may in principle conflict with the lateral management
view to perform process activities between administrative units in hospitals in order to manage
patient throughputs.
Since the late 1990s there are some signs of new organizational forms emerging within
health management based on lateral or horizontal rather than vertical modes of organizing
(Grafton et al. 2011). There is talk of a governance model of organizing (Newman, 2001)
based on lateral rather than vertical relations. These models all challenge the vertical control


lines, stressing lateral and process-based forms of organizing rather than vertical or functional
principles. These arguments are highly relevant for hospitals as professional service
organizations. On the other hand, the trends towards formal mergers point to a direction of more
vertical lines of control which may conflict with the professional governance in hospitals, which
are mainly based on social or norm based control in the hands of the professionals themselves.

Horizontal and vertical management control

According to the focus on professional norm controls which is fundamentally tied with
horizontal/lateral practices, literature in the field points at the observation that horizontally
oriented MACS (Management Accounting and Control System) are often used for coordinative
purposes in inter-organizational settings (Hkansson and Lind 2004; Dekker, 2004; Cker and
Siverbo, 2011). It is noted that the horizontal MACS do not substitute the existing vertical
functionally oriented MACS, but complement it (Kastberg and Siverbo, 2011). However, what
they see is that the use of horizontal and vertical MACS are kept separate and used in different
situations. Other studies show that traditionally designed (vertical) MACS obstruct the
realization of process orientation, since such MACS (horizontal coordination) reinforce a
vertical perspective on the organization, which makes inter-departmental cooperation and interorganizational collaboration more difficult.
Accordingly, hospital mergers which motivate to more formal management at a distance
may hamper the development of lateral management practices. Laterally based principles of
organizing are now being promoted as a potential successor to highly integrated forms. But the
success or failure in inter-organizational contexts depends on the coordination between the
partner institutions (Smith et al., 1995; Dekker, 2004; Caglio and Ditillo, 2008). A lateral
management control system is more similar to the interactive control system defined by Simons


(2000:216) as the formal information system that managers use to personally involve
themselves in the decision activities of subordinates. Interactive management control systems
appear in interaction between managers and their subordinates (van der Meer-Kooistra and
Scapens, 2008). According to Batec and Carassus (2006) and Kominins and Dudau (2012: 144)
the interactive management control systems are characterized by: a strong level of involvement
from all organization members, and a focus on dialogue and knowledge exchange for the
examination of the assumption underlying both current strategies and new strategies. These
processes are characteristics of lateral relations built on involvement, dialogues and
communication. The vertical control approach does not include the lateral processes across
functional lines of authority. Management at a distance may accordingly hamper these lateral
According to Kastberg and Siverbo (2011) the horizontal MACS are at a more general
level used for coordination, for interactive control and for attention direction. Simon (2000) and
Kominis and Dudau (2012) conclude that the measure of success of an organizations
management control package is its ability to manage the tension between predictable goal
achievement (monitored by diagnostic systems) and creative innovation (fostered by interactive
systems). Further, we may expect that interactive management control have to be practiced with
the hands on in close relations with the actors; and not at a distance.

Interorganizational controls and framing of interaction

Increased attention has been paid to see cooperation as means to increase efficient public sector
services (Miller et al, 2008). In an overview, Carlsson-Wall et al (2011) conclude that existing
literature mostly relating to the private sector, has primarily focused on inter-organizational
administrative control, and with much less attention to social and self-controls. On the other


hand, long ago Hopwood (1974) pointed to the need to pay attention to social controls and selfcontrols as parts of managers tool boxes and the potential influences with behavior in
organizations. Administrative controls are the traditional, formal tools managers use for
potential influencing behavior. Then comes social controls derived from colleagues, education
and group norms, and last, self-control based on personal values which motivate action.
Solstad and Pettersen (2010) show that in a hospital merger the hospitals were forced to
change, but the new organization the merged hospital followed different pathways to handle
the externally imposed stress. The top management changed the administrative control and the
structures, while the professional parts of the hospitals did not adjust to these changes. The
formal organizational structures and flow charts were changed, whereas the routines and
clinical practices based on the key actors evaluation of activities; their interpretive schemes
their framing remained unchanged (Broadbent and Laughlin, 2005). Based on these arguments,
we need to go beyond the formal, vertical lines of coordination and control when studying
mergers and the perception of control by the professional staff. These arguments are also
according to van der Meer-Kooistra and Scapens (2008), who point at the comprehensive view
of management control which include these lateral relations which cannot be observed merely
from the hierarchical management viewpoint.
In our case where performance is heavily dependent on professional actors, we assume
that social control and self-control are most important incentives for high quality service
provision. These control mechanisms cannot be administered from distance, but have to be
implemented in direct face-to-face contact with and between the professional staff as they are
performing their tasks. Administrative controls, on the other hand, might be performed at a
distance by indirect media (e-mail, telephone, documents).


Inter-organizational social controls develop by informal and direct interaction. This is

especially relevant in professional organizations such as hospitals, where performance is in the
hands of these professional employees and guided by social/norm controls. In such
organizations, researchers have noticed that there is a potential clash between the goals set by
management and those of the

health care professionals. Management by distance as

organizations become larger due to mergers may, accordingly, challenge social and self control
if administrative controls replace the other control bases.
How then can we understand the differences in perceived controls such as those
discussed here? Actors may interpret signals and actions differently, which directly refer to the
concept of framing (Goffman, 1974). Frames are organizing principles that govern actions and
performances, and are expressed in discourse and subject to collective construction. The actors
compare experiences and actions, and use framing to give meaning and common understanding
or definition of the situation. Framing is, according to Goffman (1974), a way to explain the
background different actors or group need to interpret the ongoing conversation and interaction.
In this sense, framing refers to how something is contextualized, interpreted, and essentially
given meaning (Sundstm, 2011). As social and self-controls are directly tied with social
interaction (face-to-face), social interaction presupposes established social frames. Social
frames do not only provide a schemata of interpretation but also guide the interactions
between these individuals, and they are continuous negotiated between different parties.
According to Goffman (1974), actions are always interpreted in a context that makes certain
performances legitimate, while others will face resistance. The context will therefore be part of
the individual's understanding of whats happening. These frames enable and regulate the way
actors establish meaning of what is going on around them (Bay, 2011).
Consequently, we may understand differences in perceived control relationships
between management and professionals by noticing that actors/professionals construct their


interpretation and understanding of control differently due to many reasons, among other
explanations difference as to context (distance) and professional background. This different
understanding of control may also include managing of identification and tension in the
organization (Seal and Mattimoe, 2014). Tension in this sense may not only include different
goals, but also different concepts and perspectives on reality (Seal and Mattimoe, 2014;
Cinquini et al., 2013; Nrreklit, 2011). According to Nrreklit (2011:17) is reality not at static
phenomenon, but a well-functioning actor-world relationship and is the integration of the four
dimensions of facts, possibility, value and communication. Facts may thus be defined by their
possibilities or logics (Seal and Mattiemoe, 2014.
In this paper, we argue that the tensions are socially constructed by actors framing the
ongoing conversation and interaction. Management control at distance may create special
managerial challenges ( especially in hospitals), and consequently, distance may influence
framing. Facts could then be understood as framing of physical distances. Values and logic
could be understood as framing of emotional distance, while communication could be seen as
framing of cognitive distance. Normally individuals feel more socially connected to others who
are located nearby (Stafford, 2005; Henderson and Lount, 2011). Increased physical distance
between individuals may lead to disconnection, and individual may react less positively towards
one another. Physical distance may also have a negatively effect on the quality of the interaction
between leaders and employees (Howell et al., 2005). The physical distance may also affect the
perceived distance the cognitive and emotional distance. In such a context, framing is

The research setting

Like most other countries in Europe, the hospital sector in Norway has been continuously












functionally/vertically controlled by managers, whereas the production lines are coordinated on

a process- or a lateral basis (Pettersen et. al., 2012). The new organizational form is basically
built on Regional Health Authorities which include several independent local hospital
enterprises. Each level is managed by a general manager who reports to the board at regional
or local level. These units are legal entities regulated in the Hospital Enterprise Act (2001).
This model is in many ways similar to the business enterprise model, consisting of several
independent business units called daughters which are governed by the parent organization. In
this paper we focus on the respondents perceived intra and inter-organizational vertical and
horizontal coordination practices between the mother unit and the other hospital units as the
hospitals are merged.
The four Regional Health Authorities in Norway coordinate the hospital enterprises.
This coordination model is complicated, as we find vertical coordination between the State (the
owner), the Regional Health Authorities and the local hospital enterprises. There are also
horizontal coordination tasks between the local hospital enterprises within their region, and also
internal horizontal coordination challenges within hospital units, as these are large

In order to develop more efficient governance forms, the Government

introduced hospital mergers as one of several reform initiatives. The politically lead pressure
towards larger hospital entities motivated a comprehensive reorganization and large number of
mergers took place within few years after the reform. Between 2002 and 2013 the number of
self-governing hospital entities was reduced from 54 before the reform to 25 years after.

Research methods
The purpose of this study is to analyze mergers between hospitals as a part of a managerial
reform. We have made a longitudinal study to gain a deep insight (Lee et al., 2007) and followed


merger processes affecting our two case hospitals during 11 years. We began the study as the
Norwegian Hospital Enterprise Reform was implemented in 2002, and during these years two
merger initiatives were implemented in this region. When studying organizational change, Ryan
et al, (2002) and Scapens (2004) highlights the necessity to study the changes in their historical,
economic and organizational context to gain a comprehensive understanding whats happen
during the change process. According to Pettigrew, Woodman and Cameron (2001) time is also
an essential part of investigations of change if processes are to be uncovered. We have included
these suggestions into our study.
We began with a fieldwork in the first merged hospital enterprise consisting of three
previously independent hospitals. These three hospitals were geographically located in two
different counties. The hospital ad a total of approx. 1,500 employees. Each hospital unit offered
most hospital services, but with varying degrees of specialization. It was a long distance
between the hospitals; nearly 225 km between the two hospitals with the longest distance range.
The three hospitals were earlier managed by their own top management and administration.
Because of geographical and historical reasons, there had been little cooperation between the
hospitals before the merger in 2002. The general manager and the top management team were
recruited from outside and localized to one of the former independent hospitals. During


field work we interviewed key informants in 2005, such as the clinical department managers
situated in each of the three merging hospital units. A total of six

clinical managers were

interviewed. The data collection was based on semi-structured interviews. In order to obtain
valid information, each construct was explained and discussed with the respondent during the
interviews. The researcher participated in the interviews, and these were taped and recorded.
The interviews took from 1,5 3 hours and were carried out in the offices of the clinical
managers. . The notes were sent to the interviewees for validation.


In spring 2014 new interviews were made with clinical managers in the same two case
hospitals. Six managers participated in the study. They were not identical with the key
informants in the earlier field study (2005), but they have the same positions. The interviews
were made similar with the former data collection. The quotes used in this paper are all
translated from Norwegian to English by the authors.
A survey among all the professional employees was also carried out in 2005. That
survey was sent out three years after the merger had been implemented. The respondents were
nurses, doctors and the clinical managers in the departments in the three merging hospital
entities. The questions in the survey were developed according to operationalized constructs to
describe relevant theoretical dimensions derived from the theoretical framework.


questionnaire was distributed by the internal mail system. The questions were formulated as
assertions, and they were based on closed alternatives with options from either strongly agree
to strongly disagree. The assertions have been translated from Norwegian to English in this
paper. 759 questionnaires were distributed in the hospital in June 2005 with a total response
rate at about 38 %.
During the spring 2013 we conducted a new survey to the reorganized merged hospital
enterprise. The same questions were used as in the former survey, and we used the same
practical methods. We received responses from 837 employees, which indicate a response rate
of approximately 15%, which according to the hospitals administration is considered a normal
response rate. Many of the employees were on leave, holidays and may have resigned, and the
actual response rate may then be 25-30%. Consequently, our interpretation of the data should
therefore only indicate trends.
In this paper we present data from the two case hospitals (hospital 1 and 2) that were
involved in both mergers. The data is analyzed by using SPSS. We use descriptive statistics to


calculate the average in per cent. The data is presented in appendix 1 and 2. In the presentation
we combine the alternatives agree/partly agree, and disagree/partly disagree.

Empirical findings
The implementation of the Hospital Enterprise Reform (2002) was top- down driven. The
general managers who at that time were responsible for the implementation of the new
management control systems, were considered as the Ministrys prolongations of the reform.
The management control was based on vertical lines, where the general managers were the
representative for theses modes of organizing. These modes are in contrast with a more lateral
(horizontal) control practice, which are mostly observed in the clinical departments. In the
mergers between the hospitals the real distance and the perceived distance between the general
managers and the professional staff in the units may affect the local discourses and the collective
constructions of norms and culture in the clinical departments.
The geographical location of the general manager and his staff is a main contextual
condition for managing the merged hospital units. In 2005 the general manager was located in
hospital 1, while in 2013, after the second mergers, the general manager was placed in the
largest hospital, located far away from hospital 1. Hospital 2 did not host the general managers
neither in 2005 nor in 2013.
In the interviews and in the surveys the professional staffs were asked about their
perceptions on decision-making, information, communication, cooperation and distance. The
focus was both on the relationship between the general manager (and his staff) and the
professional staff in the departments (vertical control line), and between the clinical managers
and the professional staff (a more horizontal control line).The clinical managers were during
this time period all placed in the same location as the professional staff. Thus, the vertical and


horizontal lines of management control have had different conditions as to physical distance in
these two mergers.

Vertical lines of management control

The vertical lines of management control are studied by the relation between the general
managers and the professional staffs. It is striking to notice the differences between the
respondents views between 2005 and 2013. Although the professional staffs in hospital 1 in
2005 were housed in the same buildings as the general managers, they were much more hostile
in their views on this management in 2005, compared with the 2013 view - where the top
management team is placed far away.
In 2005 when the top management was in the same building, the professionals disagreed
with the top managers decisions, they felt they were not well informed about key decisions,
and they felt they were in general not well informed. Further, they did not think that the top
managers were visible in the organization, and they thought that the top manager did not have
a good dialogue with the professional employees. Strikingly, they think that the communication
between the top and the professionals was bad (95 % disagree with the statement that the
communication is good).

The empirical findings from the survey in 2005 are confirmed by

interviews with key informants in hospital 1: As one informant said:

There has been communication, but it has not been two-ways communication.
This citation illuminates a top-down communication. Further, another informant stated that the
general manager did not focus on managing the merged hospital, but was concentrating on
serving the regional administration, upwards:


In my opinion, the administrative top leaders work for the Regional Health Authority
- they do not carry out discussions with us.
We also find signs that professionals perceive the administrative managers to have low
legitimate standing:
I do not trust the administrative top leaders.
The same picture is painted by the 2005 respondents in the second case hospital (hospital 2).
Respondents were highly critical to the top management (although slightly less than in hospital
1), indicating bad dialogue and communication. This hospital was situated far away from the
mother unit. The 2013 data indicate that the perceived distance between the general manager
and the professional employees in hospital 2 has decreased, as respondents are neutral as to the
quality (difficulty) of the relations. The key decision makers in hospital 2 expressed in 2005 a
perceived long distance to the general managers. One informant said:
The general managers work by their own agenda. This result that changes we like to
do in the clinical world dont get sympathy within the general manager team.

Another informant stated that the general manager did not have tacit knowledge relevant from
the hospital world:
The general managers is not rooted in the clinical world
The informants in both case hospitals perceive that there are unbalanced power bases in the
merged units, as respondents think that geographical distance poses a problem related to the
fact that the general manager is housed in one of the units.
In 2013 respondents in both case hospitals are of the same opinion, however, in 2005
respondents in case hospital 1 did not think that relations were unbalanced. In 2013 these


respondents changed their opinion and think that the physical distance has increased and favour
the hospital unit housing the general manager. Informants in hospital 1 said:
I experience that there are problems with understanding how we are operating in
relation to the distance ... they do not understand what we are concerned about
They have the role as the big brother, while we have the feeling of being the little
The perception of unbalanced decision-making and problems attached with physical, cognitive
and emotional distance may be framed by the relative close or long physical distance to the
general manager and his staff. On the other hand, as seen above, distance does not (seemingly)
produce negative opinions towards the top management in 2013
In 2013 the professional staff is still negative to the vertical lines of management control
represented by the general managers, but the resistance has decreased to some extent. The
informant from hospital 1 and hospital 2 express in interviews that they do have any
experience with the general manager. The general manager and the staff were quite distanced
from the professionals daily:
We do what we always have been done. (Informant, hospital 1)
Im not dependent on the general managers in my daily work. (Informant, hospital 1)
We feel very independent in how we operate the clinic. (Informant, hospital 2)
We do not have anything to do with the general managers...I do not know who the
other person in the general management team are rather than the person who is the
general managers for this clinic.(Informant, hospital 2)

The framing of distance as a significant role in management control after mergers is expressed
by the informants in 2005 (hospital 1), as having to do with traditions:
It has something to do with traditions.


Further, framing of unbalanced power is also shaped by the feeling of closeness/association

with the unit:
I think the lack of affiliation to the enterprise is the worst. I feel no affiliation.
In hospital 2, which did not host the general manager, the respondents agree that the hospital
1 (housing the general manager) is favoured when decisions are made, and that the distance is
perceived as a problem:
Im sceptical to the situation that the general managers are located in hospital 1
The physical distance is felt as a problem as the respondent did not see the top managers:
Since the merger I have had little contact with the general managers and the
administration. I have no relation to the general managers they are located in
hospital 1, and the distance is quite large and we never see them.
One informant in hospital 2 perceives that the hospital housing the top management is
favoured when being benchmarked;
The general managers always measure the hospitals in the enterprise against each
other. And it always ends with that hospital 1 is favoured.
This feeling of distance is underlined by a professional stating that the top manager does not
know what happens in the other hospitals:
I dont think the general managers know that we exist in the system. They live their
lives, and we live our lives. I dont know what happens up there

In sum, these statements indicate that the vertical lines of control in 2005 were interpreted as
bad- irrespectively of the professional were close physical or at distance. The perceived
opinions on the general manager in 2013, geographically far away, were totally different and
much more positive among the respondents in both hospitals. The vertical lines of control in
2005 could be characterised as break down, and as a result the merger was split up in 2006.


While in 2013 the data indicate a more positive relation, although the general management is
far away. This may indicate that the physical distance is not a main element when evaluating
vertical coordination between general managers and the professionals in a merger. In 2005 the
general manager was a person with business background, while in 2013 the general manager
has background as a doctor. It appears that the cognitive and emotional distance matters more
than physical distance in this case. This assumption is supported by quotes from the interviews
in 2014:
I have to say that it feels reassuring to know that the decisions are not only taken with
a focus on the bottom line, but also on the patient securities - that the patient is in the
centre. The general manager is good in talking about patients and that the patient is the
most important part of health care, and he talks about the care and quality ... so this
general manager has many of the qualities that perhaps was lacking in previous
regimes. (Informant, hospital 1)
I think it must be easier to explain and defence changes in a language that that the
employees understand. (Informant, hospital 2)
Maybe, the general managers have more legitimacy because he is a doctor, and in such
a way understand what is going on.(Informant, hospital 1)

These citations illustrate that the professionals feeling that the general manager is one of
them is important in their framing of vertical coordination.
Intra-organizational control in the clinics and framing
The empirical findings (appendix 1 and 2) show different picture as to the perceived relations
between the professional staff and the general management at on hand and their clinical
managers at the other hand, both in 2005 and 2013. The two case hospitals show almost the
same trends: The professionals think that their clinical managers appreciate comments from
them, and that they always get feedback from their managers if they have questions. This is
mostly (in the clinics) face-to-face communication which indicates direct interaction
underpinning social control and lateral relations based on discourses.


We also notice that the respondents think that it is easy to discuss with their managers
when conflicts arise and that the dialogue is perceived to be good. Further, the sharing of
information is good between the parties. These findings indicate horizontal cooperation, as
professionals in hospitals are highly educated people who appreciate management by
involvement and lateral relations, managers who motivate to self-control based on professional
norms and values. There are also indications that administrative control seems to be established,
thus creating comprehensive management tools on the clinical levels.



above are supported by the interviews in 2005 and we notice the same trands in 2014, as
informants are positive towards their clinical managers:
We have a very good dialogue with our clinical department leader. (Informant,
hospital 1)
I think the cooperation internal in the clinic and between my managers and my,
function well. (Informant, hospital 2)
We have a good working environment in my clinical department. (Informant, hospital

In the 2014 interviews informants state:

We have a good working environment and cooperation in our department.
(Informant, hospital 1)
We have no replacement of staff. It is a sign that employees enjoy working with each
other and with the leaders of the department. (Informant, hospital 2)

Appendix 1 and 2 show that a majority of the respondents in 2005 think that there has been
little investments in improving the working environment after the first merger. In 2013 most of
the respondents are neutral to this question, which indicates that the respondents perceived that
the working environment has been improved from 2005 to 2013. This could be explained by
the fact that the first merger was perceived as more dramatic than the second merger, and that


the professional staffs over time have accepted the merger, as they do not experience dramatic
changes in the work environment.
The studies both in 2005 and in 2013 indicate that the respondents perceive the working
environment in their own department as functioning well, implying that the horizontal
management control at department levels was not negatively affected by the merger. The
relationships between the professionals and their clinical managers were judged as positive by
the respondents both in 2005 and 2013, and the dialogues and information were judged as good.
The decisions and the general managers activities were not affecting the day-to-day clinical
activities, indicating a split between clinics and administration.

Preliminary discussion
This paper focuses on distance as one important contextual element which affects the
relationship between managers and their employees in merging hospitals, as we posed the
question how managers and professionals in hospitals perceive their relations with top managers
at a distance when contexts are changing Distance is a contextual determinant when managerial
task such as coordination and control are to be performed, and when the context such as distance
changes, we might expect that this change also affect the relations between managers and
employees, and the management control practices. Distance can here be split into physical
distance, cognitive distance and emotional distance.
The empirical setting presented is quite unique. The two hospitals studied were merged
into one unit in 2002 together with another small hospital. One of the hospitals had at that time
the role as the main actor and housing the top management group. This merged hospital
experienced fundamental intra-organizational conflicts, and it was split up in 2007 due to these


internal conflicts, internal unrest and escalating budget deficits. At the same time, a new merger
was constructed based on political decisions.
We made in 2013 a follow up survey study from 2005 in the two case hospitals to follow
them during major changes in in managerial control practices over time. Interviews were done
among clinical managers in the merged hospitals during early spring 2014, to follow up
interviews done in 2005. The longitudinal data opens for comparing perceived experiences
among the staffs working in the hospitals 2005 and 2013.

Physical and cognitive distance

The existence of professional norm controls in hospitals is fundamentally tied with
horizontal/lateral practices. Literature points at the horizontally oriented MACS (Management
Accounting and Control System) used for coordinative purposes in inter-organizational
settings, as contrasting to the vertical oriented and formal control lines in mergers. We have
found that vertical and horizontal controls are separated in our cases. Horizontal control in the
clinical practices is perceived as functioning well, whereas vertical control is separated from
the clinical, horizontal control. Administrative control (at distance) is associated with vertical
control, and perceived as functioning quite bad. Social/professional control is associated with
horizontal control, and these controls are judged as adequately practiced, close to the
professionals who frame these controls as good.


Management controls- and framing

Management control can be seen as tool kits with many elements; including administrative,
social and personal controls. We have observed in our empirical data that administrative
controls at distance were perceived as inadequate, whereas social control as professional
coordination which is performed face to face are judged to be good and independent of top
managers at distance. In sum, the ill-functioning top management did not interfere with the
social and professional controls close to employees in the clinics. We may understand
differences in perceived control relationships between management and professionals by
noticing that actors/professionals construct their interpretation and understanding (Goffman,
1974) of control differently due to among other explanations differences as to context (physical
distance) and professional background (cognitive and emotional distance).
In our case where performance is heavily dependent on professional actors, we assume
that social control and self-control are most important incentives for high quality service
provision. These control mechanisms cannot be administered from distance, but have to be
implemented in direct face-to-face contact with and between the professional staff as they are
performing their tasks. Administrative controls, on the other hand, might be performed at a
distance by indirect media (e-mail, telephone, documents). The framing of physical distance
(facts) is here found to be different (due to distance). Further, differences in values and logics
between professionals and administrative staffs may motivate to emotional distances. We also
observe that professionals in the clinics have direct communication and are separated from the
general managers staff which leads to cognitive distance (Seal and Mattimoe, 2014).
In sum, these diverse perspectives on reality challenge the management control practices
in merging organizations such as hospitals.


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Appendix 1:
Hospital 1
agree (%)

agree nor
disagree (%)






agree (%)

disagree (%)



disagree (%)

I think no local hospitals in the enterprise is favored when the decision is










I mostly agree with the decisions that the administrative top leaders takes









I am well informed about key decisions made by the administrative top

leaders and the board









I think the information from the administrative top leaders is good









The information from the administrative top leaders have increased the
confidence in the organizational processes that are initiated









The representatives are heard in the process









The administrative top leaders are visible in their positions









The administrative top leaders have a good dialogue with the professional
employees in the hospital enterprise









The communication between the administrative top leaders and us as

professional employees are good









The hospital enterprise is running in an efficient way









I think the leader of my department appreciate comments from me









When I have comments on operational issues relating to the department I

been heard










I always get feedback from the leader of my department if I have a question









If conflicts arise, it is easy to take this up with the manager of the department









The dialog between the leader of the department and me is good









I think the information from the department leader is good









My department is taken care on in an effective way









The cooperation between the administrative top leaders and clinical

departments are good









Geographical distance poses a problem for working entity









It has been investing heavily in the work environment after the merger









Appendix 2:
Hospital 2

agree nor
















I think no local hospitals in the enterprise is favored when the decision is









I mostly agree with the decisions that the administrative top leaders takes










I am well informed about key decisions made by the administrative top

leaders and the board









I think the information from the administrative top leaders is good









The information from the administrative top leaders have increased the
confidence in the organizational processes that are initiated









The representatives are heard in the process








The administrative top leaders are visible in their positions









The administrative top leaders have a good dialogue with the professional
employees in the hospital enterprise









The communication between the administrative top leaders and us as

professional employees are good2









The hospital enterprise is running in an efficient way









I think the leader of my department appreciate comments from me









When I have comments on operational issues relating to the department I

been heard









I always get feedback from the leader of my department if I have a










If conflicts arise, it is easy to take this up with the manager of the










The dialog between the leader of the department and me is good









I think the information from the department leader is good









My department is taken care on in an effective way









The cooperation between the administrative top leaders and clinical

departments are good










Geographical distance poses a problem for working entity









It has been investing heavily in the work environment after the merger












Levi Grseth-Nesbakk and Chamara Kuruppu


This archival research study unravels critique and unintended consequences arising from
increased parliamentary oversight controls and multiple accountability pressures in Norway.
Intensified oversight and accountability pressures are supposed to boost transparency and
performance, as well as clarifying roles and performance expectations. This study depicts how
more controls yielded diametrical repercussions. Two other overall findings include the
necessity of paying more attention to quality over control quantity as well as the
communicative aspect of the controls. To achieve (more) effective controls, including
strengthening their legitimacy, the findings in this study point to the need to better understand
the accountability perceptions of those held accountablethe other side of parliamentary
Key words: parliamentary oversight, the Office of the Auditor General, accountability,
unintended consequences.




Parliamentary oversight (henceforth PO) has in recent decades received increased attention in
many countries. The need for PO arises from the eventuality that the executive party of the
public sector (i.e. the central government, ministries and subordinated agencies) in some way
fails, thereby endangering the role and decisions of parliament. PO is said to hold different
functions and to bring about various benefits. E.g. the mere anticipation of parliamentary
oversight has become a powerful ex-ante influence in determining the content of bills drafted
by ministers, buffering against coalitional partners temptation to use ministerial positions to
pursue their political agendas (Martin and Vanberg, 2004). Ogul and Rockman (1990) view
PO as formal and informal endeavours to bring agencies into compliance with Congressional
demand (Ogul and Rockman, 1990, p. 6). Furthermore, oversight enhances accountability
and ensures executive responsiveness to statutory guidelines (Rockman, 1984). Moreover, as
defined by McCubbins and Schwartz (1984, p. 165), ...oversight policy concerns whether, to
what extent, and in what ways Congress attempts to detect and remedy executive-branch
violations of legislative goals. This definition has been articulated by viewing parliamentary
scrutiny as a post-investigation. Therefore, the intention of oversight is to assure that the
executive remains answerable, i.e. accountable, something which is sought to be achieved via
various forms of controls. Nevertheless, this is considered to be a political undertaking in a
system of government and it can deal with various issues ranging from administrative matters
to policy aspects of governments in different contexts.
In such settings, the intended functions of parliamentary oversight may not always be
fulfilled. Indeed, by inaugurating oversight committees, governments may seek to gain
legitimacy rather than prompting changes (Degeling et al., 1996; Jacobs and Jones, 2009). As
discussed by Evans (1999), the executive governments that occupied a clear majority in



Australia have almost destroyed the ability of Parliament to enforce accountability.
Furthermore, Holland (2004) argued that one of the crystal clear intentions of parliamentary
oversight is to prevent the Executives negative encroachment over the elected
representatives. He found that the Parliaments ability to scrutinize the governments actions
had eroded because ministers cannot be asked to testify before oversight committees.
Consequently, the public sector has become less open to the scrutiny performed by
representatives of citizens. Holland (2004) therefore proposed to remove the existing barriers
that hinder oversight committees having complete access to ministers and their administrative
In essence, the referred literature above depicts a controversy between intended functions
of parliamentary oversight and various settings in which they are severely challenged.
Nevertheless, the general consensus seems to be that more control and intervention are
warranted to strengthen or facilitate PO, either by removing existing control hurdles or by
launching new control initiatives. However, at some point increased controls may transmute
into dysfunctional parliamentary oversightas least when judging by organizational literature
on the consequences of increased control (e.g. Perrow, 1986). An emerging puzzle is therefore
what happens in parliamentary oversight states characterised by increasing levels of control.
This is not much addressed by parliamentary oversight literature and therefore led to the
formulation of the following research question: What kinds of unintended consequences do
arise from increased parliamentary oversight controls?
By exploring unintended consequences stemming from increased parliamentary oversight
controls we learn more about the other side of parliamentary oversightthereby illuminating
how the normative instrumental foundation of parliamentary oversight controls is not always
achieved. This furthermore elucidates factors that ask for more critical accountability studies.



This paper makes three contributions. Firstly, it takes a stance against the mainstream
view in the literature of there being advantageous to intensify PO controls. The evidence in
this study rather suggests that intensified controls could bring about diametrical repercussions.
Secondly, this study adds to the literature by underscoring the importance of quality over
quantity in PO controlsnot only to achieve effective controls, but also to avoid jeopardizing
the legitimacy of the institutionally important role of PO controls. Third, the findings in this
study point to the importance of the communicative aspect of PO controlsencompassing the
ways in which they are planned and carried out. This includes the ways in which media have
seized a core position in PO questions.
We apply an accountability perspective to guide our discussion. Following the frame of
reference, the method section is outlined before presenting the two cases. Similarities and
differences between the two countries are highlighted in the discussion, followed by the


No country possesses unlimited resources to satisfy the publics needs. Parliamentarians

must therefore oversee and control ways of deploying public resources by the political
executive (herein the central government and public servants), making sure they take their
obligations seriously (Funnell, 2003). Conversely, parliaments in Westminster are accused
for being a servant of the executive in financial matters and for legitimizing rather than
controlling (Hume, 1963). Funnell (2011) supplemented by stating thatalthough it has
been argued in the literature that public sector auditors do not always tell the truthit is
perhaps more detrimental that they are not always allowed to comment on matters under the
domain of the government. Furthermore, a minister should not chair oversight committees in



parliament as this can impair the ability of parliament to hold the executive accountable to
the public since parliamentarians of the ruling political party often hesitate to express views
that may annoy their superiors (Aggarwala, 1966). Thus, the legislature forms (independent)
scrutiny committees to hold the executive accountable to parliament (Aldons, 1985; Thomas,
2009). Correspondingly, it is a function of the parliament to scrutinize (important) issues
stated in the reports of the Auditor General, calling the executive to account for misuse of
public funds and authority.
Hence, accountability is an important concept under the auspice of democratic
governance. Nobody would oppose the requirement of being accountable (Bovens, 2007a;
Iyoha and Oyerinde, 2010). It is, however, a multifaceted (Scarparo, 2008) and a contestable
phenomenon (Bovens, 2007b). Accordingly, terms like chameleon are used in accountability
discussions (Sinclair, 1995). Particularly, Sinclair (1995) discussed five accountability
forms: Managerial, political, public, professional and personal: Managerial accountability
emphasizes inputs and outputs, meaning that results and the amount of resources used are in
focus. A related accountability form is administrative accountability, focusing more on
processes, and thereby how organizational tasks should or could be encountered.
Accountability in terms of professionalism (i.e. professional accountability) means that one
feels a belongingness and association with a certain professional community that shares the
same views as oneself. Public accountability refers to being responsible to the wider
community, by having or wanting to answer to concerns and questions that may arise,
through different channels. Political accountability means that one is accountability due to
the organization of the public sector in different hierarchical levels of authority. In this
respect, there is a direct line of accountability relations starting with the electors as the
overall principals, followed by Parliament, central government and ministries, before the
subordinated agencies comprise the bottom level of the authority chain. Personal



accountability resembles an adherence to inner beliefs and conscience, e.g. regarding what is
perceived to be right and wrong. Moreover, Sinclair (1995) noted that these accountability
forms might be present simultaneously, making accountability a context dependent
Accountability has therefore been extended far beyond its original intention ofin a
narrow senseproviding accounts for ones conduct (Mulgan, 2000). Corollary,
accountability, within the context of parliamentary oversight, is considered as the obligation
of furnishing accounts and acceptable explanations to parliament or its oversight committees,
via the Office of the Auditor General (henceforth abbreviated OAG), to assure that resources
and authority have been used for legitimate activities and purposes. Similarly, the executive
and public administrators are obliged to execute recommendations of parliament. In this
way, accountabilityin the context of parliamentary oversightis supposed to augment
performance, transparency as well as clarifying roles and performance expectations.
Hence, the way this term is frequently defined envisages the perception of the ideal
relationship between parties involved. The bureaucracy testifies before oversight committees
while discharging accountability (Thomas, 1979; 2009). Accordingly, administrators provide
justifications and accept responsibility for administrative decisions and actions associated
with the implementation of governmental programmes. Furthermore, as quoted by Carnegie
and West (2005: 915), Public Sector Accounting Standard Board refers accountability as the
responsibility to provide information to enable users to make informed judgement about the
performance, financial position, financing and investing and compliance of the reporting
entity. The rationally articulated accountability outcome seems to be unquestioned goals
(Uddin and Choudhury, 2008), thereby ignoring how parliamentary oversight may not unfold
as expected. Messner (2009), taking a basis in the ethical dimension of accountability,
cautioned about the limits of accountability, something that appears more pressing when



individuals face multiple accountability pressures simultaneously (as explicated by Sinclair,
1995). Messner (2009, p. 925) applied the term opaque selves to spell out limitations of
accountability, defining the term as follows:

The first constraint upon every account of oneself is grounded in those areas of the self and its
conduct that remain foreign to the self. This foreignness marks a limit to every effort to know
oneself and therefore restricts ones ability to a full story of oneself Therefore, I cannot
explain everything that I have done, and I cannot tell a coherent story of who I am and what I
have experienced because my experience and conduct have not been motivated exclusively by
my conscious efforts and deliberations and because the minutiae and complexity of what
happens will often exceed my recognition and memory.

This reasoning provides understanding as to why individuals held accountable sometimes

become frustrated when asked to explain their conduct in the backdrop of full rationality.
Messner (2009, p. 934) furthermore informed us what we then might have to expect from
individuals held accountable: The idea that there are limits to accountability suggests that
escaping or resisting accountability is not necessarily an unethical act. It may be an
understandable reaction to a situation in which demands for accountability have become an
ethical burden for the accountable self. One may even argue that that resistance to
accountability is, to some extent, a normal feature of everyday organizational life. Indeed,
from time to time, discussions or debates have to be avoided and critical questions have to
be ignored in order to move forward and to get things done. In this way, Messner (2009)
shed light on sources of conflicts in organizations and experienced frustration amongst those
held accountable.




This study explores unintended consequences arising from intensified parliamentary

oversight. It was therefore natural to select a case with a clear history of increased controls.
Norway met that criterion (see the empirical section). Another reason for choosing Norway
was the countrys democratic and egalitarian tradition, making it e.g. more likely that public
servants or politicians would voice concerns with dysfunctional controls. The point of
departure in this study is the control activities exercised by the Office of the Auditor General
in Norway as they have attracted more and more debate and appraisal in recent years.
Archical research (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2000) has been conducted, focusing
on newspaper articles, government reports and reports by stakeholders. The referred
government reports are authored by the Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional
Affairs. The OAG prepared the case material for several of these reports. Newspaper articles
and reports by stakeholders (e.g. Civitaan independent think tank) were retrieved through
searches in printed newspapers and by online searches. One stance of the newspaper articles
present the voices of experienced (domestically) well-known former public servants, telling
about their experiences with the OAG in Norway. Since the respondents no longer were
working in the organization in question they then could speak more freely as they were no
longer under the OAGs traditional scrutiny, nor did they risk sanctions from their (former)
employer. Government reports were identified via a separate search engine available at the
home page of the Norwegian Parliament. A couple of references were found via the
newspaper articles, spurring a search for the original documents.
Advantages of secondary data is the possibility of collecting and analyzing far larger data
sets and the increased likelihood of collecting higher-quality data than what is often possible
to collect singlehandedly (Saunders et al., 2000, p. 199). Archival data in this case was a



suitable data collection method because the nature of the data could easily have made it
difficult to obtain them via primary data collection methods, such as e.g. interviews. One
reason for this is the number of high profile individuals (politicians and top-level public
servants) that have sheared their views on the matter. Such persons are often difficult to
interview due to their busy time schedules.


The government system in Norway is a ceremonial monarchy. The king is formally in charge
of different tasks, but that is mostly ceremonial. The central government is de facto taking
care of the various duties and tasks performed at central government level. The Norwegian
Parliament (i.e. the Storting) holds the highest decision making authority and is supported by
different oversight mechanisms.
The Parliament holds the central government accountable, ensuring decisions are
effectuated and that preconditions remain viable. Consequently, carrying out controls has
become a key task. Nevertheless, the Parliament has initiated different changes, entailing to
reinforce parliamentary oversight, leading to more formalized control mechanisms. Many new
controls were introduced during the 1990s, of which some are described below. One was the
establishment of a separate Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs
(henceforth abbreviated SCSCA) in 1993 (extending the prior committee from 1981). Another
change initiative came from putting more transparent, frequent and broader use of the OAG.
In 1996, two new initiatives were launched, open-hearings in the Parliament and regular
meetings with one hour of oral questioning, without written documents in advance. During the
same period the Parliament also increasingly formed new scrutiny-commissions to
investigate specific matters. From 1997, the Ombudsman started reporting on individual



cases. In 1999 a procedure was developed for controlling how the central government
followed up on the Parliaments instructions. These reforms represented a step-by-step
approach, resulting in more comprehensive parliamentary controls over the central
governments activities, representing ex-post monitoring. Albeit reactive in nature, the various
control mechanisms have an intended preventive function, namely to stimulate the central
government to act within the boundaries of their action space, yet in accordance with existing
rules, professional conduct and as a reflection of the parliaments intent and formal decisions.
A review of the parliamentary control system in 2002 lead to some minor suggestive changes
(as summarized in the report by the Commission evaluating the Parliament's control function,
2002; the SCSCA, 2003).
Todays parliamentary control system can be divided into two main types: the kind of
controls the Parliament itself carries out and controls performed by external parliamentary
control units. The first type takes place when the Parliament meets in plenary sessions,
(whereby parliamentarians ask questions to clarify uncertainties or as controls conducted by
one of Parliaments fixed committees (e.g. health, foreign affairs, scrutiny and constitutional
affairs). Controls performed by external parliamentary control units include e.g. those done by
the OAG, the Ombudsman and special purpose scrutiny-commissions. Particularly the
OAG and the SCSCA have steadily conducted more controls over the years.
The OAG is independent of the central government and carries out its audit according to
predefined auditing standards (corresponding to international auditing standards). Frequently,
the auditor general presents critical remarks about various practices at central government
level, many of which relate to inappropriate and flawed steering systems or practices. The
SCSCA deals predominantly with the Stortings supervisory authority, and constitutional
matters. The SCSCA is responsible for reviewing and submitting recommendations to the
Parliament in various areas ( 12, paragraph 9 of the Rules of Procedure, see



www.stortinget.no). Control areas include the central governments annual report, documents
from the OAG, and other matters concerning the OAGs activities, as well as reports prepared
by a number of the aforementioned control mechanisms (e.g. the Ombudsman, and various
commissions of inquiry appointed by the Storting). If deemed necessary, the committee may
also instigate additional inquiries within the public administration. One particular penalty or
sanction in the hands of the Parliament is to dismiss the central government. In Norway this
threat has been very much alive due to its history of minority governments and multiparty system. The latter frequently implies the need to form coalitions in order to obtain
majority in Parliament.

Unintended consequences and criticism arising from increased PO controls

The OAGs controls and evaluations of agencies over the years have led to frequent incidents
of harsh criticism, generating frustration and counter-criticism amongst Norwegian
bureaucrats and (former) ministers. A Norwegian newspaper expressed the frustration
experienced by the bureaucrats as follows: It is well known that the bureaucrats perceive
particularly the OAG as troublesome, more or less as hear in the soup(Ystad, 2009). As a
result there is a tendency amongst ministries to instigate a form of protective response to the
increased level of control. E.g., in 2001 the minister of local government and regional
development rebuffed the OAGs request for additional information. This resulted in: the
auditor generally being unable to carry out the control tasks he is asked to undertake by the
Storting, whenever public servants are to decide what documents that the auditor general are
granted access to (The SCSCA, 2002, p. 1). When responding to the OAGs request for
more information, the ministry responded: The ministry of local government and regional
development reaffirms that, according to todays regulation, it is doubtful how far the auditor



generals privileges reach concerning the possibility of retrieving notes containing the public
servants internal considerations and discussions (The SCSCA, 2002, pp. 3-4).
Furthermore, in 2008 the same ministry did not accommodate the OAGs request for
access into its archiveswhen investigating a series of bad investments made by Norwegian
municipalities and the extent to which the proper procedure had been followed. The ministry
justified its decision, claiming it was necessary to avoid the OAG getting access to central
government notesso called R-notes. The OAG complained that this made it impossible to
conduct the investigation (the SCSCA, 2008). In 2009 the OAG requested documentation
relating to risk management from the Ministry of environment, but this was not furnished (the
SCSCA, 2009). The Ombudsman had a similar experience when the minister of petroleum
and energy for several months refused to grant the Ombudsman access to some of its internal
documents (Ystad, 2009).
The OAGs intensified controls over the years amalgamated into a series of reports and
newspaper articles in 2012, suggesting the OAG had gone too far in its controls, thereby
introducing unintended consequences at central government level. Kinander (2012a, p. 1)
studied the OAGs work methods, and stated: The OAG is a powerful institution in
Norwegian politics and public administration. The question is nevertheless whether it has
become excessively powerful, and has seized roles and tasksas a critical voicethat are not
pursuant with its judicial basis. Continuing the criticism, the former minister of
development, Erik Solheim, stated: The OAG is preoccupied with minor errors, creating
politicians terrified of initiating big and hairy reforms (Gjerde, 2012a). He illuminated the
symbiosis between the OAG and journalists in the following way: the OAG criticises minor
details and with the medias tendency to enlarge minor issues it constructs an impression of
the (overall) goal as being a society free of error (Gjerde, 2012a). Furthermore, a former
central government agency director, Ida Brresen, stated that although controls carried out by



the OAG in principle can be a valuable lesson, they did not necessarily turn out that way.
Brresen explained: I have experienced that the OAGs mandate is wide and not sufficiently
aware of what the starting point of the audit ought to be, or mirroring the Stortings premises
and decisions (Gjerde 2012b). A former Chief of Defence, Sverre Diesen, criticized the
OAG stating that it lacks competence and proficiency knowledge in numerous areas,
hindering them in conducting a proper audit [i.e. a comprehensive area assessment] (Gjerde,
2012c). Diesen was particularly concerned with the wider consequences of such audits: It is
unfortunate that the audit provides a skewed impression of actual events, but worse that
organizations made subject to the measurement deliberately or unknowingly adjusts their
operations accordingly to avoid criticism. Measurable factors are therefore prioritised over
the more interesting and neglected qualitative measures of effectiveness. Such unqualified
audits therefore yield adverse results (Gjerde, 2012c). Also, another experienced bureaucrat,
Tore Eriksen, previously holding the highest administrative position within the Ministry of
Finance for several years, and currently being Norways OECD-ambassador, asserted:
During my time in the ministry we felt it as problematic that we did not know the criteria on
which we were audited the OAGs interference with internal planning in the ministries
leads to poorer agency plans If it is known that the OAG assesses internal processes, e.g.
based on internal plans, there is an inherent danger that these plans will become less detailed
and more deficient (Gjerde, 2012d).
Concomitantly, such tendencies were reported as bureaucrats during the last few years
have produced more of their internal correspondence in the form of R-notes (Erlandsen and
Johansen, 2012). These R-notes is a type of government internal notes that can be withheld
from the OAG. Under the former central government (in office during 20052013) the
number of R-notes more than doubled, which alongside increased use of e-mails and phone
calls signifies that: we have got a completely new form of case preparations during recent



coalition governmentsparticularly with the current government. The case preparations are
almost going underground (Erlandsen and Johansen, 2012, p. 4). A politician from the
opposition commented: The opposition lacks proper grounds for challenging the central
governments decisions when ministries prepare cases inadequately [or without proper
disclosure]. We do not get access to the alternatives being considered or receive explanations
as to why certain alternatives are discarded. This challenges the Stortings role as the real
decision maker and therefore represents a significant error in political conduct (Erlandsen
and Johansen, 2012, p. 4).
One of the larger newspapers in Norway (i.e. Dagbladet) commented the study by
Kinander (2012a) in an editorial. Kinander (2012b) referred the key notion in the editorial and
comments as follows: Albeit Dagbladet acknowledges the importance of the key findings in
Kinanders study (2012a), it is (apparently considered) more important to avoid gagging the
freely spoken auditor general. This creates an impression of people having grown so found of
the OAGs criticism for its own sake that one is not willing to question the criticism no matter
how weak and poorly founded it is from a professional viewpoint.
Kinander (2012b) ends his commentary with the following summary: The OAG
frequently grounds its work in the public administrations own goals, ambitions and visions,
and treat these as realistic objectives, whereby deviation from 100 % goal achievement
instigates criticism (by the auditor general). This naturally leads to softening in the public
administrations objectives, with associated implications for Norway. This is at the core of the
criticism targeting the OAG, namely that it does not necessary lead to improvements in the
public administration. The OAG may end up weakening the public administration.




Having described parliamentary oversight control mechanisms and associated unintended

consequences in the empirical section, the attention now turns to discuss the data from the
accountability perspective.
Norway has incorporated various elements of parliamentary oversight control
mechanisms. A concrete example is found in the organizing of parliamentary committees,
given the task to oversee the central government. Over time, Norway has also paid more
attention to goals and results, and sought ways to strengthen parliamentary oversight. This has
been a steady development, yet with an upswing in the last 10-15 years, reminiscent of its
control endeavour leading to wider and intensified controls and control mechanisms. A
difference is found in the way Norway mostly relies on ex-post controls.
The Parliament of a democratic State is anticipated to exercise control over
governments and remain as an institution of exercising checks and balances over the
executive and government (Degeling et al., 1996).
Even if Norway is said to struggle with performance problems or unsatisfactory results,
the obvious solution is not necessarily the appropriate path if seeking to strengthen
parliamentary oversight in the country. The traditional approach and apparent solution would
be to reinforce control or remove oversight barriers. If the control culture or personal
accountability elements are not tuned in with traditional democratic views regarding
accountability, most likely, more controls will not be an effective solution. McMillan (2004)
discussed accounting manipulations and proposed trust and virtues as a better alternative than
more control, as the latter option will not solve the problem, but rather exacerbate the
problem. In the end it is always possible to avoid or sabotage controls and oversight.
Therefore, introducing more of the same will not necessarily help. For instance, both Iyoha



and Oyerinde (2010); McMillan (2004) suggests that strengthening the profession is more
rewarding than launching more controls.
At face value, Norway seems to have managed to incorporate preventive functions into
the parliamentary oversight system. For instance, the Norwegian case shows the increased
reliance on the OAG to perform controls. The OAG has a reputation as delivering tough
assessments and scrutiny reports, and speaking freely in its criticism when discovering
irregularities. This has led to various changes, which show that scrutiny is taken seriously in
Norway and fierce criticism awaits underperformers. However, the empirical material spells
out how the public servants increasingly feel monitored, criticisedalso on unfair grounds
and sometimes also without a just basis for the scrutiny and control. Increasingly this has led
public servants to change the way they do their job. According to the informants, this has
reached a point at which the public servants perceive the OAG as intruding too much in their
daily affairs. Actually, there are signs that of Norwegian public servants shunning
accountability.. In the case of the Norwegian public servants they apparently seek to keep
more of their internal or strategic assessments away from the public eye. This is materializing
by means of the increased use of R-notes, the type of notes that the OAG cannot request to
see. The argument that is found in the data material is that this takes place because it is
necessary for them to have some action space in which they do not always have to be held
accountable. This corresponds to the reasoning of Messner (2009): One may even argue that
that resistance to accountability is, to some extent, a normal feature of everyday
organizational life. Messner (2009) argues that this is sometimes necessary in order to get
things done. It therefore seems that the public servants in Norway are fed up with being
scrutinized according to administrative accountability (Sinclair, 1995). Another feature in the
Norwegian case is the way the public servants feel that minor details are getting a lot of
attention, whereas various achievements are not much praised. It is not easy or indeed



possible for the public servants to always do the right thing or to be in a position,
retrospectively, where they have to account for everything that has been done or
contemplated. In this way the public servants encounter their opaque selves. As a
consequence of the fierce criticism, there is an incentive to soften the goals and ambitions to
ensure they will be met and thereby avoid criticism, also in cases where such actions are not
necessarily believed to be the best way forward to reach ones ambitions and objectives. For
instance, some of the experienced public servants commented that the OAG often emphasised
details and a vision of an error-free world, which was not seen as being compatible with
establishing ambitious and important, yet potentially hard-to-reach goals.
The end result, according to the informants, is that less will be accomplished and still
less criticism will be presented. This furthermore points to the weaknesses of accountability
and thereby also parliamentary oversight.
Paradoxically, rather than achieving more transparency via increased oversight and
controls, the opposite has turned out to be the case. The data contains a statement by a
politician that explicated this as being a threat to democratic governance. This therefore
shows, as also argued by Messner (2009), that there are limitations to accountability, and in
the context of this paper, also to the extent of parliamentary oversight. When it is pushed
(too) far, unintended, if not diametrical effects emerge. This represents the other side of
parliamentary oversight, namely the unfortunate side effects deriving from control, akin to a
behavioural reaction to control systems found in organization life and studies (see, Perrow,
However, it would be unfair to solely blame the OAG in Norway for the perceived
difficult accountability pressures faced by the public servants. In Norway it is clear that the
media has played an important tandem role with the OAG. It has become a tradition in
Norway that the OAG conducts its assessments and report about them, whereby the press



picks up certain elements from the OAGs report and constructs very critical headings and
story lines. This may be perceived as the OAGs viewpoint, but should more correctly be seen
as the medias interpretation of the OAGs reports and announcements. Anyway, the end
effect, in accountability terms, is that the public servants are exposed to a strong public
accountability pressure (see Sinclair, 1995), stirred up by the media.
Nonetheless, a critique launched by the public servants towards the OAG in Norway is
the way in which the OAG sometimes sets its own agenda. This may be attributed to what
Sinclair (1995) coined personal accountability. Sinclair (1995, p. 230) stated that personal
accountability rests on the belief that ultimately accountability is driven by adherence to
internalised moral and ethical values. Thus, the informants references to instigated audits
without the apparent proper anchoring in the Storting can reflect the auditor generals
tendency of acting out under the influence of his personal accountability. In this way it was
stated that the auditor seizes the role as a political supreme judge (Kinander, 2012a; 2012c).
This reflects how the auditor general, according to the informants, over time increasingly have
initiated audits or made inferences about certain findings from audits even when the
Parliament did not launch or problematize the subject matter.


This paper on parliamentary oversight has addressed the following research question: What
kinds of unintended consequences do arise from increased parliamentary oversight controls?
The evidence points to an increase of controls over time in Norway, escalating
particularly during the last 10-15 years. The increased parliamentary oversight (controls)
functions (in the intended way) only up to a certain level of control increase. Beyond that
level, public servants made subject to controls will become more protective and find ways to



escape or hide from accountability. This brings us to the conclusion that although certain
controls must be in place, it seems pivotal to consider other approaches to improving
parliamentary oversight. For instance, Iyoha and Oyerinde (2010); McMillan (2004) suggest
that strengthening the profession is more rewarding than launching more controls. Data from
the Norwegian case shows for instance how some of the informants question the competence
of the OAG in carrying out area-specific evaluations and scrutiny. Although it might be
valuable lessons to be learned from interacting with the OAG, as acknowledged by one of the
informants, it rests upon the (perceived) robustness of the scrutiny undertaken.
Furthermore, the increased and intensified controls have amalgamated into growing
frustration and unintended behavioral responses. According to the data material this has led
public servants to alter the way they do their job. Three main unintended consequences are
depicted from the data material.
Firstly, critique over details and failure to succeed 100 % in everything they do give
impetus to lowering the ambitions and goals amongst public servants. The end result is
therefore that increased controls and parliamentary oversight might decrease rather than
increase performance. Secondly, the data material shows how the use of public servants
internal documents has changed along the way. Particularly the so called R-notes
representing an off-limits area to the OAGhave grown in popularity amongst public
servants. In this way, steadily intensified parliamentary oversight controls and scrutiny have
led to increased opaqueness of public servants work processes, rather than to increased
transparency. Iincompatible accountability pressures challenged the public servants, making it
difficult for them to account for their conduct. As a result they sought ways to escape from
parliamentary oversight scrutiny, rendering it difficult or impossible to comprehend what is
undertaken by the public servantsmaking their actions opaque.



Thirdly, the OAG sometimes launches investigationsaccording to the informants
without having a clear mandate from the parliament. This makes it difficult for public servants
to know exactly what is expected from them and how to respond to the critique. In this way,
rather than clarifying roles and performance expectations, parliamentary oversight controls
and scrutiny contributes to mystify public servants roles and performance expectations.
As a result, the intention with parliamentary oversight is distorted, depicting the
limitations of accountability. This exacerbates the difficulty of the opaque self, and helps to
explain why some public servants seek to ignore accountability. It furthermore instigates
questions about the ethics of accountability. In such states, the parliamentary oversight
therefore ends up being a monologue rather than a constructive dialogue (seeking to find ways
to improve performance). Consequently, there is a need to readdress the other side of
parliamentary oversight, both in terms of re-establishing a dialogue with those held
accountable, but also by paying more attention to the unintended consequences that derive
from pushing parliamentary oversight controls and scrutiny too far.
One limitation with this study includes the lack of in depth interviews. Future studies
could therefore benefit from a different data collection design. In particular, upcoming studies
are advised to explore how quantitatively driven PO controls impact on control subjects
willingness to cooperate with those carrying out the controls. Similarly, how fragile are
control subjects willingness to cooperate (with those carrying out the controls) with respect
to the way they perceive the handling of the communicative aspect of the PO controls?
Finally, which of the twonumber of PO controls or the quality of the PO controlsare
more likely to bring about diametrical repercussions?



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- Preliminary Draft Not for Quotation -

The changing landscape of Higher Education: from assumptions like

students are not customers to something quite different

John Burns
University of Exeter1
September, 2014

Academics are living through significant change, embroiled in its complexity
and sense of cumulative becoming. The higher education (H.E.) sector is evolving
into something that it was not, making our day-to-day working patterns different in
considerable ways. Several once taken-for-granted assumptions, unquestioned beliefs
underpinning the very fabric of H.E., have not only been challenged in recent times
but actually been ruptured and to some extent displaced by new emerging ways.
For instance, a long-standing given in H.E., that students are not customers of
academics, no longer seems to hold to the level it did say just 10 years ago; nor
would research is everything, nor would the assumption that academia is a safe job,
underwritten by government. These assumptions, amongst probably many more, will
be familiar to many readers, in particular to those colleagues who have worked in
research-focused universities for more than two decades. But equally, the same reader
is likely to have questioned the continuation of such phenomenon in more recent
The main aim of this paper is to unpack and understand the nature of such
significant changes in the H.E. landscape in recent times. Much of this change is
driven by outside, broader factors (e.g., government policy) on the other hand, yet a
great deal of the unfolding journey is also shaped by agency within H.E. (e.g.,
management styles). In particular, I aim to highlight how new emergent practices
which collectively I call financialization have become prevalent across the sector and,
as such, constitutes a key driver, as well as an important outcome, of the institutional
change that we are living.

John Burns is also a Visiting Professor at University College Dublin (Ireland), WHU Otto Beisheim
Management School (Germany), and Trondheim Business School (Norway)


Financialization describes a multitude of things which, in general terms, relate

to how the H.E. sector is nowadays more than ever managed by, and judged, on its
financial performance. Broken down, it essentially consists of keen attention towards
costs and other financially-oriented metrics, cost-revenue analysis management, key
performance indicators, forecasting, and strategizing around financial numbers. In
some respects, there is nothing necessarily so new about this, in the case of the H.E.
sector. Universities have always been very costly organizations, but traditionally they
have also been heavily subsidised by the Government. They have always had some
degree of accountability; however, the difference today is in terms of the sheer
magnitude and pace at which financialization is sweeping through this landscape.
My personal interest in this subject is twofold. First, I have an interest in what
is happening as an employee within the H.E. sector; and, second, as a researcher, my
curiosity is particularly honed towards why and how the change processes evolve as
they do over time. I shall endeavour to focus predominantly on the latter of these two
interests and, from this, also consider some of the potential consequences and
implications of this unfolding story.
The remainder of the paper is structured as follows: next, I shall briefly outline
the processual methodology adopted in the research. The case study then follows - i.e.,
a study of key temporal aspects of the H.E. sector over the last two decades. So, I
begin by describing the H.E. sector in the early 1990s, when I personally entered the
academic profession as a research assistant, and for which I highlight important
guardians of continuity. Next, the case description focuses on the nature of more
recent and present-day changes within the H.E. sector, including an emphasis on some
of the key drivers of change. Finally, there is a discussion of some of the
consequences and implications which I draw from the case, including some
questioning of how financialization has seemingly and widely been assumed to
represent the best way forward in managing tomorrows universities and the H.E.
sector more generally.
A processual approach
This paper adopts a processual methodological approach (Langley et al., 2013)
in attempting to unravel and make sense of the dynamics of H.E. during the last two
decades. Temporality is key in a processual approach i.e., a predominant interest in
how and why phenomena evolve over time as they do, as opposed to a predominant


emphasis on outcomes or a journeys end. More specifically, the present processoriented research will focus attention on how and why H.E./organizational
phenomena emerge, settle and change through time.
Temporality is highly relevant to understanding cumulative organizational
phenomena, because tomorrows organizations are embroiled in ongoing, complex
challenges over time not least due to their fast-moving, inter-connected and
globalised nature. Yet, the social sciences tend to be dominated by static research
approaches which prioritise abstract correlations between dependent and independent
variables, and espouse to know-what modelling of best organizational practice.
There is an opportunity to push the boundaries of organizational analyses, and
social science more generally, by developing the processual alternative. Processual
research incorporates notions of causality which are constituted in sequences of
interconnected events, and a fundamental aim is the development of know-how and
pattern-seeking theorization.
Organizations are immersed in continuous and cumulative uncertainty and
change, and it would seem an opportune time to pursue new conceptualizations of the
organization field which are sensitized to all things that flow. In the social sciences,
more specifically, this will involve the development of perspectives that depart from
timeless concepts, which review embedded taxonomies, and that substitute
complexity for linear causality.
Our case setting is the H.E. sector, particularly that part which involves
English universities2, which represents an organizational landscape that has recently
gone through radical change and where further change seems inevitable. The HE
sector thus provides an empirical setting where complex organizational processes can
be researched. And, while there is a plethora of prescriptive and policy-grounded
research which promotes the practices that HE institutions need to follow in order to
prosper in their new time and space, the vast majority of this research is grounded in
static methodological approaches. In contrast, the present approach aims to balance
such contributions with research that critically unpacks the cumulative processes of
change in this vitally important sector.

The main reason for focusing primarily on English universities is twofold: (1) I have been working
for an English university for the previous 5 years, and (2) there is a particular difference between
English and, say, Scottish universities as far as recent significant changes in student fees structures are


UK academia in 1993
My first taste of the academic field was as an economics undergraduate
student, enduring three years of rational economic man and equilibrium. Armed
with the various models and tools of neoclassicism, I then entered the auditing field
with one of the Big 4 accountancy firms, although I soon discovered that there was a
greater need for a green-inked pen than for tools of rational behaviour and equilibrium
forces to fulfil my duties in this vocation.
I didnt last too long as a trainee auditor, just over a couple of years, and I
went back to (higher) education. I returned to my old stomping ground of economics,
self-funding a Masters in economics at the University of Manchester. It was pretty
much more of the same i.e., rational, optimizing models of economic outcomes, the
major difference was stretching my only-adequate mathematical skills to their limit.
During my Masters I began to develop a particular interest in the theory of the
firm, and it was then that I had my first exposure to more heterodox economists like
Veblen (1898), Galbraith (1958) and Hodgson (1988). These (and other nonmainstream) writers began to help me to make more sense of the organizational field
(i.e., the accountancy firm, and its clients) that I just spent two years breathing-in.
As a trainee auditor, you normally experience different client-organizations at
least every other week. I personally felt that, in a reasonably short space of time, I had
learned a lot about the organizational world, including some degree of recognition of
the many subtle and often tacit differences from one organization to another, e.g.,
differences in terms of structures, procedures, personalities, perceived identity,
ambition, and much more. I also think that it was during my auditing days that I
became more intrigued and curious as to what made an organization tick (or not) over
time?; what, how, and why do some things change sometimes expectedly,
sometimes not?; who were the key, influential players inside an organization, and
why? These sorts of questions have stayed with me to the present day.
I began working in academia for proper in 1993. A research assistantship
came up, literally across the road from where I was doing my masters in economics,
in the Manchester School of Accounting and Finance. The research project was an
investigation of whether management decisions were dominated by the statutory
requirements of external financial requirements (cf. Johnson and Kaplan, 1987), a
quite convenient marriage of my own (limited) works experience in auditing and my
keen interest in the economists theory of the firm, respectively.


Engaging also in a PhD, I immersed myself into reading huge amounts of

literature in the heterodox economics field, and supplemented this also with social
theorists whom I sensed might help to extend (though I probably didnt realise it so
much at the time!) the sort of methodological and theoretical framework that I was
rather unknowingly aiming for, e.g., the works of Giddens (1984) and the new
institutional sociologists (e.g., DiMaggio and Powell, 1991).
In no time, I approached a university in the same way that I had acquired a
habit of doing in my auditing days; that is, I continuously and consciously took stock
to try to appreciate what makes this particular organization not just the people and
their oft-habitual behaviours but also the various rules, practices, processes, etc, who
are the people who get things done, which practices are generally quite stable and
rather predictable, and why do some things change, plus lots more.
The first, most striking observations that I made were of three in stone,
unquestioned and seemingly taken-for-granted assumptions throughout the circles that
I was now engaging in. The first was an assumption that students are not customers,
the second was that research is everything, and nothing else matters so much, and
the third was that were a safe sector, were Government-funded. These three things
were continuously reiterated to me by my peers, they seemed to be common ground
for colleagues throughout my 5* research-focused academic department, but I would
argue that they also resonated for the most part with all research-focused academic
units at the time. Drawing from my own PhD and early publications, I would argue
that such assumptions had become institutionalised (Burns and Scapens, 2000).3
There were numerous and reinforcing drivers for such unquestioned ways in
English universities at the time. For instance, and first, although maintenance grants
for students had steadily declined in previous decades and student loans to fund
university living were becoming more common, all domestic students still had their
tuition fees covered by government funds. Second, research achievement
particularly the quality of articles written by scholars in highly-regarded peer-review
academic journals had become ever more important since the launch of the
inaugural research assessment exercise in 1986. Moreover, importantly, such
assessment exercises were aligned to significant financial rewards for universities.

Burns and Scapens defined institutions as shared taken for granted assumptions within
organizations, which are embedded in the rules and routines that shape actions (2000, p.8). Institutional
change, though infrequent, would reference to the displacement of existing institutions with new ones,
although total displacement (of the trace and memory) is unlikely.


Third, while the previous few decades had witnessed a steadily decline in the total
amount of funds allocated to universities by the UK government, it was still a
generally well-subsidised sector, and there was still significant amounts allocated to
research councils the State funding mechanism was historic and generally reliable.
Fourth, in 1993, the academic field was probably more national than international,
email was only just beginning to surface as a common tool within academia, and the
Internet was still a few years away before it started to have an impact in the sector. So,
the university market was fairly localised, and there was only probably as much
competitive pressure in such locale as had previously existed over several decades. By
1993, then, the H. E. sector in England was under little pressure to change, there was
an absence of noticeable clamouring for fundamental change from any particular
groups or key individuals students at that time were relatively powerless. And,
commonly-held assumptions such as those mentioned above were continuously
reinforced through time, taking its people (in particular research-oriented scholars)
with them, as an embroiled element of such reinforcement processes they never
seemed to be questioned or challenged in any meaningful way.
UK academia in 2014
Fast-forward 21 years and the situation for Englands universities has now
become extremely different. The three aforementioned institutions have all been more
or less blitzed and no longer have given status, and there are many other important,
new features in the sector that just didnt represent a 1990s English university. In this
section, I try to capture some of the more significant features of todays H.E. sector,
highlighting amongst other things some of the main drivers underpinning how the
changes have unfolded as they did through the last two decades. I also include a short
anecdote of a recent experience I had which was really the catalyst for my intrigue
into (what I regard as constituting) fundamental and far-reaching institutional change,
still happening now, in the field in which we work.
Change drivers
Since the 1990s, global H.E. has been under considerable pressure from
respective governments, English universities being no exception, to become more
accountable and to generally convey more value for taxpayers money. There have


been multiple reviews and reports which have fuelled and furthered such moves
toward more commercially-oriented organizations, e.g., Dearing Report (1997).
In 2012, the UK government implemented recommendations of two White
Papers from the previous year, (1) Students at the heart of the system, and (2) a new
regulatory framework for the H.E. sector. These had far-reaching impact(s) on the
entire academic landscape, including and probably most significantly, within the
English H.E. sector. First, the UK government has slashed, practically wiped out its
contribution towards university teaching costs, and replaced this with a new system
whereby (English) universities elect the tuition fees they wish to charge prospective
students, up to a maximum of 9k per annum. This of course has a fundamental affect
on the student-university relationship. Second, academic research has also taken a
massive hit in that: (1) the government funding that directly flows to universities from
the research assessment exercises has shrunk significantly compared to just a decade
ago, and (2) the allocation of government funds to research councils has also been
dealt a huge hammer blow. Third, the UK government has opened up the marketplace, in allowing the formation of new private (i.e., non-funded) universities.
These represent, as I see it, some of the main (though not necessarily the
only) drivers of recent change in Englands universities. Such changes to the H.E.
landscape have, through both external requirement and internal agency, catalyzed the
emergence and creation of new forms of practice in the sector. I shall discuss some of
these new and emerging practices below. But, first, I shall briefly offer a personal
anecdote, which brought home to me recently the significance of the changes that we
(academics) are living through.
An uncomfortable moment
In March (2014), I was keynote speaker for a conference organised by the
Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), in London. The 200+
audience comprised mostly qualified accountants who worked in the H.E. sector
across the UK, and also a handful of very senior university managers including ViceChancellors. I opened the conference in the morning session with a talk that was
angled at some of the behavioural issues when implementing organizational change,
although I sensed this was not entirely what the audience had expected from me. The
broader aim of the conference was about how make H.E. institutions more efficient
and cost effective. My task was specifically to discuss how management accounting


might possibly augment these ambitions in the sector, and I did say some things
(though not too much) on what might be gained from such tools as the balanced
scorecard, benchmarking and more. I did, however, caveat my discussion of such
tools with a health warning and then spent proportionately more of my time trying to
convince the audience (but likely failing) about how unpredictable and challenging
the implementation of such tools can become in practice.
I guess that I was generally well-received at least, the audience were
incredibly polite and relatively appreciative; I had got away with it. The next speaker,
a consultant from one of the Big 4 accountancy firms, seemed to attract more
attention, at least judging by the number and type of questions he was given, when he
discussed the university TRAC system which is effectively an activity-based costing
system that tries to better calculate where academics costs are incurred.
But it was the third presentation which really set the conference room alight;
namely, a presentation given by the finance director of a new private university, BPP.
His university is of course not accountable to government, and receives no public
funds, it is a commercial outfit. And, the significance of just how different his
workplace is to mine, and really epitomising the magnitude of change in the H.E.
sector in recent times, came to me when this speaker said: We sell our degrees to
both home/EU and overseas students.
It was his use of the word sell which, in particular, drew my attention to (the
confirmation of) just how different the H.E. sector had become, or at least will likely
become, now infused with practices and assumptions that had not previously existed.
The same finance director captured his audience with his commercial astuteness and a
language that oozed of an accountant whose main task was unashamedly to earn
profits for his university. He outpoured a whole array of commercially-oriented
(though fairly traditional MA) tools which he was using; and his whole remit came
across as being in the field for cutting and managing costs, targeting margins,
achieving pre-determined ratios, and satisfying the customer.
The whole audience embraced him, certainly more than they had appeared to
take to me, and everyone seemed to want a slice of his cake. At the same time, I
began to sink in my chair, as I felt everyones stare onto my back, because following
the last two presentations (if not even before this day!) I was clearly viewed as an
expensive resource and, even more significantly, it seemed that the accountants were
more than ever determined to ensure that they had the means to say so.


This got me thinking; in particular, I was curious about the extent to which, in
the context of their considerably changed and changing landscape, public sector
universities were also engaged in greater commercial savvy and more businessorientation than had previously not been the case. Were universities in general
becoming more financialized, steered both operationally and strategically with
positive economic returns in mind, and where accountants are likely to assume more
elevated and powerful roles than they once did in that sector?
Towards the present-day
The CIMA conference experience was a real eye-opener for me, and ever
since I have been particularly intrigued to try to see and understand how the journey
continues to unravel in the H.E. landscape. As I have intimated already, I strongly
believe that we are living through a milestone period when once unquestioned and
long-standing assumptions underpinning the sector, particularly amongst its researchoriented academics, are changing. More to the point, I would argue that the H.E.
sector is currently in the throes of institutional change.
There is much to be observed and seen, concerning the unfolding nature of
these developments in a very important sector. For instance, there is a plethora of
prescriptive and policy-grounded research and commentary which generally promotes
the new management practices that H.E. institutions must follow in order to prosper
in their new time and space. Much of this literature, and much of what we also see in
practice, represents the promotion of financialization, whereby universities now
increasingly measure, control and evaluate achievement through financially-oriented
performance indicators. There is plenty of advice on offer from professional training
firms who have recently swamped the H.E. market with courses on basically how to
improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a university or to make your university
leaner. Equally there are many more courses on offer, and publications at hand, for
learning, say, about cost management in universities, ratio analysis, KPI targeting,
pricing, benchmarking, and much more.
As a professorial researcher in a Russell Group university, I have never felt so
subject to measurement than I have (increasingly) over the last year, both individually
and collectively (i.e., as a member of the Accounting group, or the Business School).
Particularly at management level there has been a noticeable push on measuring and
managing costs and other financial metrics, set against (hard-to-predict) revenues, and


much of this activity filters down, directly and indirectly, into the individual
academics field. Accounting per se has become more prominent in day-to-day
university life e.g., seen in the manner by which faculty research support, for
conferences, etc., has become a far more closely monitored exercise which requires
significantly more bureaucratic steps to attend to before an academic boards any plane
to share ideas with like-minded thinkers.
Accounting tools are entering, and becoming more common, in the day-today life of universities, especially at management level. There are plentiful cost and
value-for-money exercises, not just cost-cutting but more of generally all-round cost
management. Revenue management has risen in terms of its priority and importance,
although managers still struggle in this respect to the extent that much revenue
information in the H.E. sector is not available until probably after it remains useful.
Key performance indicators are nowadays more commonplace, often integrated
within some kind of balanced scorecard model, and reporting and review cycles
would appear to be getting shorter. Also there is strong evidence that benchmarking is
happening more and more, compared to previous years e.g., comparisons across
individual faculty, departments, Schools and Colleges, and Universities; but also
benchmarking over time, focusing on trends, etc.
The same kind of thing is also more noticeably and increasingly changing the
nature of strategy within universities. First, university strategy has on the whole been
reconfigured into shorter windows (i.e., a 3 year strategy is more common and taken
as being more useful than any 10-year plan), explicitly stated as being living or
rolling plans such that they are probably best described as strategizing rather than
strategy documents. Such strategizing, particularly at management levels, is very
much geared towards long-run financial health, and university accountants (and their
accounts) appear to be assuming positions of considerably elevated status than they
had previously in the H.E. sector.
Institutional change?
I began this paper by suggesting that academics were living through, and in
the throes of, significant institutional change in their sector, whereby once
unquestioned assumptions underpinning their work environment had not only been
challenged in recent times but were also in serious doubt as to their longevity or even


their existence today. As illustration, I questioned whether academics in researchfocused universities today could confidently claim, the following three things,
namely: (1) that students are not customers of academics, (2) that research is
everything, and nothing else matters so much, and (3) that academics work in a safe
sector, with the safety net that is called Government.
First, can we really still contest the notion of students as our customers? The
growing evidence is: clearly not! For instance, the new fees structure has completely
altered the university-student relationship; universities are now trading products as
opposed to funded services. Also, in the last few years the National Student Survey
has elevated into being one of the key metrics and rankings within the H.E. sector,
and university managers rally their troops at survey time to encourage strong (and
hopefully positive) student input.
I was also told an interesting story a few months back by a teaching colleague
of mine at Exeter, which I found very interesting. His son is studying at university and
he was telling his dad how he and some friends had sat down one day to estimate
what they thought one lecture for a particular module was costing them (the students).
Moreover, when a lecturer failed to turn up to class one day, he and his friends began
to question whether they should be entitled to a refund. This suggests that for the
students at least there are fundamental changes underway, already happened, in terms
of their assumptions concerning student-university trading. This way of thinking, I
suggest, is bound to deepen given the nature of students fees structures now, and it
will be interesting to see just how these dynamics unfold and the further implications
that emerge. But it will also be interesting to see what develops from a university, and
particularly an academic, standpoint. It seems that the pace of institutional change
amongst students would on the most part be much quicker than the average researchacademic. Indeed, there are probably still a sizeable number of research-academics
who refuse to shift from their age-old assumption that students are not customers;
and, this being the case, there is likely to be resistance and challenges ahead. Possibly,
who knows, at least some academics will (e.g., through surrounding themselves with
research income, maybe?) be able to avoid forced entry into the new surroundings
where student is customer?
Second, can we still hold that research is everything, and nothing else
matters? Again, this would seem unlikely in the long-run. To begin with, universities
are under immensely greater stress to bring in revenues, they have lost the bulk of


government hand-outs and research alone will not reach anywhere near the necessary
revenue levels needed to ensure the sustainability of a university. This is why the days
of free research, e.g., 40% of research active facultys workload devoted to research,
are probably numbered, if not altogether dead. In short, research cannot be
everything because it will not pay by itself and more and probably different
revenue streams will likely need to be given greater priority. Teaching is the obvious
income stream, but we can probably expect greater competitive behaviours, product
differentiation, marketing wars, and more, in the not-too-distant future. Other
income streams will probably emerge, if they are attainable e.g., business
partnerships, sponsorship, and more.
But also, even if our research can still maintain high and subsidized status in
some research-oriented universities, the nature of our research is also likely to come
under greater pressure (to change), thus the research in research is everything is
redefining over time. For instance, changes in the mechanics of external research
funds will probably re-shape the nature of our research. Aside of the fact that there is
generally considerably less funds available to research councils, there are new and
very clear boxes to tick in tomorrows grant-getting. The overall drivers, as I see it,
and all intertwined with an undercurrent of getting the most out of scarce funding, are:
value-for-money, cross-disciplinary and multi-institutional (pooled) input, and
impact. If academics can get these things right in their applications for external
research income then, for a select few maybe, research may remain everything, but
for most it is more likely that expensive research can no longer be afforded as free
by universities, and that academic curiosity will be under serious threat.
Third, as academics, can we still claim to be working in a safe environment?
Again, I would suggest that the answer to this also has to be No; while the H.E.
sector as a whole claims to be in a generally healthy state, questions can still be made
surely about the longevity of the configuration that makes up that sector today.
Notwithstanding the problems underpinning university pension schemes (though our
sector is not unique in this), universities are scrambling for new positions in a new
environment to which most are alien. In fact it is the likes of BPP and other private
universities which are probably finding this journey the easiest at the present time,
because they are basically engaging in more of the same, but probably more


Quite simply, government funds have been swept from under H.E.s platform,
so this is bound to be having, and will continue to have, a profound impact on the
nature of its environment. What matters, what is targeted, what is prioritized, what
will become assumed to be given ways, and much more are evolving into situations
different; and the main certainty is that these phenomena will not resonate with ten
years ago. Will we see mergers, acquisitions, closures even? Probably, but who knows,
we will know with the unfolding of tomorrows journey. But the safe, plodding,
independent but highly-subsidized university of old has most certainly gone, and new
alternatives are emerging. This process will be an interesting dimension particularly in
terms of the identity of universities, and how they might (not) choose to manage and
manipulate that identity.
In attempting to unpack and understand the nature of the institutional change
in the H.E. sector over recent years, I have stressed the significance of undercurrent
and new emerging practices which collectively I have termed financialization.
Financialization, I argue, has recently and quite rapidly become prevalent across the
sector, constituting both an important driver and outcome of the institutional change.
The unfolding story of institutional change is rich with interesting dynamics,
the study of which should be increased and continued in the future. Theres more to
be learned, for sure, about the institutional contestation that occurs as new directions
(mis)align differently with the various taken-for-granted assumptions in a university
locale. For instance, we have already discussed different reactions to changes in the
relationship between student (as customer) and academic faculty; more specifically,
students appear to have less-engrained institutional stock and personal incentive to
support the notion of students as customers, whereas the longevity and
embeddedness of students are not customers appears to be the principal reason for
sluggishness in change at faculty level.
The dynamics as conveyed relate both to structure (cf. institutions) and agency
(cf. action), and therefore do not over-emphasize one or the other, thus avoiding
primary allegiance to either tall or flat ontology (Seidl and Whittington, 2014). At
several junctures in the paper I have tried to highlight both institutional mechanisms,
within and outside of a university, and also the reactive and proactive actions of
groups and individuals within a university. Academic managers in particular have


driven the recent changes that we are now embroiled in; much of what we now face in
terms of financialization is of their making.
The mobilization of power and politics was also apparent in the process of
change for instance, it is pretty clear that senior management can press their plans
and wants on their faculty, but some faculty for their part also have some plans for
avoiding the perceived pitfalls of new ways (e.g., strategies of attaining external
research income, leaving the research family, etc.).
Critiquing the underpinnings of change
I have already highlighted that there is much to be observed and seen
concerning the change taking place in the H.E. sector. There is, for instance, a
plethora of prescriptive and policy-grounded research and commentary which
generally promotes the new management practices that H.E. institutions must follow
in order to prosper in their new time and space. Much of this literature, and much of
what we also see in practice, represents the rhetorical promotion of financialization.
However, there is presently a dearth of more critically-grounded research into
the rolling-out of financialization. And, with this in mind, I would encourage greater
exploration of how financialization is (or, maybe is not?) taking root in the HE sector.
But, as important, I would encourage more critical attention towards the philosophical
foundations of such HE policies. That is, financialization appears unchallenged as
best way to steer the sector into its future, an assumption with little apparent
Yet, financialization comes loaded with increased adoption of (most
management accounting) tools which, in turn, are underpinned by optimizing
neoclassical economic theory, and premised on an overriding assumption that
organizations exist primarily to make financial surpluses. So, grounded in this line of
inquiry, I would encourage future engagement in more critical consideration of the
ideological aspects of todays HE policies. In particular, I would stress a need to focus
on the potential effects (e.g., broader social impacts) of the narrow, financiallyoriented approach that now seems to underpin the field of academia.
There would seem to be several paradoxes, both empirical and theoretical, that
are worthy of further exploration. For instance, whereas the strategizing of most of
todays universities appears firmly rooted in financially-oriented outcomes, at least
some of the institutionalized values, beliefs and wider expectations of H.E. stretch


further and into different realms - e.g., social well-being; safe, secure and sustainable
society; and a happy society. As such, it would seem that the accounting practices
which are facilitating the financialization process (e.g., financial metrics, KPIs, etc.)
are becoming an end (an outcome of confirmation against financially-grounded
targets) rather than a means for assisting the ongoing achievement of broader, societal
Closing remarks
The primary objective of this paper was to unpack and better understand the
recent institutional change that continues to unfold in the H.E. sector. I have explored
the drivers of change, the dynamics of the change process or, alternatively, the source
of no or little change, with particular reference to universities in England. The
discussion has highlighted an importance of the so-called notion of financialization,
which put simply represents an elevation of financial outcomes in the long-run
management of universities, frequently underpinned by an increase in the use of
management accounting tools and a more prominent role for university accountants.
But, as well as contributing new and necessary insight into this very important field of
institutional change, I also closed the paper with a brief discussion of how more
critically-grounded future studies might do well to question and interrogate the deeper
philosophical roots of the unfolding changes in the H.E. sector.


Burns, J. and Scapens, R. W. (2000), Conceptualizing management accounting
change: an institutional framework, Management Accounting Research, 11(1),
DiMaggio, P. J. and Powell, W.W. (1991), The iron cage revisited: institutional
isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields, American
Sociological Review, 48(2), pp.147-60.
Galbraith, J. K. (1958), The affluent society, New York: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Giddens, A. (1984), The constitution of society, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Hodgson, G. (1988), Economics and institutions: a manifesto for a modern
institutional economics, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Johnson, H. and Kaplan, R. (1987), Relevance lost: rise and fall of management
accounting, Harvard Business Review Press.
Langley, A., Smallman, C., Tsoukas, H. and Van de Ven, A. (2013), Process studies
of change in organization and management: unveiling temporality, activity and
flow, Academy of Management Journal, 56(1), pp.1-13.
Seidl, D. and Whittington, G. (2014), Enlarging the strategy-as-practice research
agenda: towards taller and flatter ontologies, Organization Studies,
Veblen, T, (1898), Why is economics not an evolutionary science?, The Quarterly
Journal of Economics, 12(4), pp.373-97.


Performance management in Spanish public hospitals:

The role of accreditation as a quality control mechanism
- Miguel Prez PhD Candidate, National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG)
J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics
Accounting & Finance department
Mail: m.perez2@nuigalway.ie

Paper submitted to the PhD Seminar Management Accounting and Control: New
Perspectives on Public Sector Governance (June 15, 2014), Trondheim, Norway

(Work in progress Please do not cite or circulate without the authors permission)


Improving quality while reducing costs and expenditures represent a real challenge
for healthcare organisations. Using Adler and Borys (1996) framework this study
investigates the coercive and enabling control role of accreditation and its effects
on the behaviour and perception of organisational members. The design of a
qualitative and interpretive approach based on case studies of two public hospitals
is used to examine the impact of an acute care hospital accreditation system in one
regional area of Spain, Catalonia. Semi-structured interviews, observation and
varied types of documentation are used as a triangulation technique to strengthen
the credibility of the issues investigated. Findings underline the catalyst and
ambivalent role of accreditation in achieving a balanced mixture of both control
dimensions. Coercive and enabling features are related to quality assurance and
continuous quality improvement principles, respectively. These results point to the
importance of developing and using control systems that integrate compliance to
standards with transparent and collaborative mechanisms.
Keywords: accreditation; coercive control; enabling control; healthcare; hospital;
performance measurement; performance management; quality management; Spain


1. Introduction
Limited economic resources and concerns about the sustainability of modern healthcare
systems are driving countries around the world to adopt policies and practices aimed at
reducing inefficiencies. Hospitals are regarded as complex organisations due to their
multiplicity and ambiguity in terms of stakeholders and objectives (Adler et al., 2003;
Abernethy et al., 2007; Eldenburg and Krishnan, 2007). For instance, cost control and
quality improvement are seen as intertwined aspects because of the growing pressure to
deliver best quality of services at lower costs (Kaplan and Porter, 2011; Cardinaels and
Soderstrom, 2013; Hkkinen et al., 2014). However, it is unclear whether these two
strategic objectives are complementary, contradictory or incompatible with one another
(Fleming, 1991; Morey et al., 1992; Carey and Burgess Jr., 1999; Leatherman et al., 2003;
Hvenegaard et al., 2011; Hussey et al., 2013).
The rise of healthcare costs and expenditures over the past three decades has
stimulated the development of more sophisticated cost control and accounting systems
(Ellwood, 1996; Preston et al., 1997; Hill, 2000; Lehtonen, 2007; Chapman et al., 2014).
Cardinaels and Soderstrom (2013) argue that this historical emphasis on cost control has
shifted to a new emphasis on better quality. Many countries have experienced a move
from reimbursement schemes focused on cost containment (i.e., the introduction of
Prospective Payment Systems based on Diagnostic Related Groups and Case-Mix
accounting1) to the implementation of performance-based systems more focused on
quality-related issues. Although healthcare organisations have a long tradition of
measuring performance, most research has concentrated on the design and use of the
Balanced Scorecard (Aidemark, 2001; Inamdar and Kaplan, 2002; Gurd and Gao, 2008;
Aidemark and Funck, 2009; Dyball et al., 2011; Kollberg and Elg, 2011) and the
consequences of implementing benchmarking systems (Llewellyn and Northcott, 2005;
Eldenburg et al., 2011). The roles and effects of other performance measurement systems
such as quality management tools in healthcare settings still remain an underexplored and
challenging topic in the management accounting literature.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the use of an external Management Control
System (MCS) to manage the trade-offs and tensions between potentially conflicting
objectives of cost and quality. In particular, the focus is placed on an acute care hospital
accreditation system based on an adapted version of the European Foundation Quality
Management (EFQM2) model. While healthcare accreditation has become a widespread
Under Prospective Payment Systems (PPS) hospitals are reimbursed using fixed pre-determined reimbursement rates
for service packages based on Diagnostic Related Groups (DRGs) which categorise patients into different classes in
view of clinical similarities and also consumption of hospital resources. Each DRG is defined on the basis of the
principal diagnosis, secondary diagnosis, surgical procedures, age, sex, and discharge status of the patient treated. The
main objectives of Case-Mix accounting are to provide a complete financial picture of the costs of treating individual
patients, and the costs of treating different patient groups. (Lehtonen, 2007)

The EFQM is a Total Quality Management approach created in 1988 by the presidents of 14 major companies in
Europe. It provides a graphical framework which is used to conduct self-assessment as well as external evaluations.
Inspired by the Malcom Baldrige award in the U.S. follows the Donabedian principles of structure, processes and
outcomes stressing the importance of organisational development (Heaton, 2000). At present more than 30,000
organisations in Europe use the EFQM model (EFQM, 2014)


instrument promoted by national governments to assess quality standards3 in terms of

assurance and continuous improvement (Pomey et al., 2004), a number of issues related
to its suitability, applicability and impact remain disputed in academia. This dual role
embracing performativity and accountability to guarantee that public funds are
appropriately invested is used to investigate how accreditation can assist hospitals in the
pursuit of cost-effectiveness and better quality of care.
This study explores the use and impact of a mandatory acute care hospital
accreditation system in one regional area of Spain, Catalonia. An interpretive and
qualitative approach based on case studies of two public hospitals examines the
perceptions of primarily top management teams (TMTs) and secondly middle level
managers and external participants familiar with the accreditation process (e.g., the
accreditation team from the Catalan Health Department and some individuals from
recognised healthcare organisations). This research builds on 49 semi-structured
interviews, non-participant observation and varied types of internal and external
documentation over a two year period. The process of re-accreditation and external audit
during 2013-2014 is perceived by participants as a constructive opportunity to analyse
significant changes and upcoming challenges. A variety of benefits and disadvantages
underline the complexity arising from assessing and measuring hospitals performance
against predetermined quality standards.
Accreditation is seen as a bureaucratic mechanism used to formalise and control
organisational behaviour. Following the comparative study examining French and
Canadian accreditation systems by Touati and Pomey (2009) this study employs the
coercive and enabling bureaucracies framework (Adler and Borys, 1996) and its four
key design attributes (repair, flexibility, internal transparency and global transparency) to
examine the trade-offs and tensions of managing opposing and sometimes conflicting
roles of MCSs (Mundy, 2010; Tessier and Otley, 2012). Enabling controls are viewed as
formal mechanisms designed to assist employees to deal more successfully with
difficulties as opposed to more conventional command-and-control managerial styles
(coercive systems) often designed to act as infallible and fool-proof instruments that
restrict employees capabilities (Ahrens and Chapman, 2004). Tensions caused by a
number of constraining design features and the possibility to assist organisations on
quality improvement activities illustrate the coercive and enabling role of accreditation
in this particular investigation. On the one hand, the compulsory nature of the
accreditation and some restrictive and rigid design characteristics in terms of flexibility
and repair exemplify the coercive role of control systems and its negative perception
amongst employees. On the other hand, higher levels of transparency and new
opportunities for collaboration and cooperation between organisational members enable
accreditation to be perceived positively in the two hospitals examined.
Definitions of standards differ in terms of meaning and scope (Timmermans and Epstein, 2010). In a broad sense,
standards are seen as norms selected as a model by which people, objects or actions (including government itself) can
be judged and compared, and which provide a common language to evaluators, the evaluated and their audiences
(Ponte et al., 2011, p. 1). They are key elements of Total Quality Management (TQM) practices, aiming at developing
better structures and processes in healthcare provision, particularly in hospitals (Grol, 2000).


Taking into consideration the particularities of the accreditation context, the dual
enabling-coercive role of control systems and the literature on the intended-unintended
consequences of implementing control systems (i.e., Bevan and Hood, 2006; Kelman and
Friedman, 2009; Lapsley, 2009), the aim of this study is to address a general inquiry
(question (i)) and three specific research questions (questions (ii), (iii) and (iv)):
(i) How is accreditation used to manage the simultaneous pursuit of cost reduction
and quality improvement in public hospitals?
(ii) How do differences between the government intentions (i.e. enabling/coercive)
and management perceptions (positive/negative/neutral) towards the use of accreditation
impact on performance management?
(iii) How is a regulatory and prescriptive accreditation system used as control
mechanism to promote higher levels of transparency?
(iv) What are the intended/unintended consequences associated with the use of this
specific hospital accreditation system?
Despite the fact that healthcare accreditation is a long-established and well
documented evaluation method, research in the management accounting literature is
scarce (Agrizzi and Agyemang, 2014). The majority of accreditation studies have been
published in healthcare and policy oriented journals examining the positive and negative
impacts of its implementation. Limited attention has been placed on the perception of
those individuals involved in the process. Therefore, this study aims to expand the
reduced number of studies investigating the interaction and dynamics between the
coercive and enabling role of controls (Free, 2007; Cools et al., 2008; Jordan and
Messner, 2012) and its consequences on the perceptions of organisational members.
Theoretically, the accreditation illustrates an external control system where coercive (i.e.,
rigid system with obligatory standards) and enabling features (i.e., promoting quality
improvement through higher cooperation and transparency across departments) exist side
by side (Ahrens and Chapman, 2004), they are part of the same control continuum
(Stansbury and Barry, 2007) and they are not mutually exclusive (Free, 2007).
Furthermore, this study contributes to recent calls made by Cardinaels and Soderstrom
(2013) to investigate how hospitals manage simultaneously cost and quality objectives
and how quality incentives and practices affect accounting and control practices.
The rest of this paper is organised as follows. First, it outlines some key
characteristics related to contemporary Performance Management & Measurement
Systems (PMSs). Then, an overview of accreditation examines the impact and
consequences on healthcare organisations. Third, Adler and Borys (1996) framework is
introduced as a theoretical lens to analyse the coercive and enabling features of control
systems. Fourth, the research design and methods selected to conduct a case study
approach are described to give coherence and rationale to this investigation. Fifth, initial
findings and results based on a partially completed data analysis are depicted. Finally, a
concluding section discusses some of these preliminary findings.


2. Contemporary Performance Management & Measurement Systems

Standard Costing and Budgeting, Return on Investment, Discounted Cash Flow,
Breakeven Analysis, Activity Based Costing, the Balanced Scorecard and much
more all share this aspiration to create and shape the capacity of individuals to
calculate and to measure the performance of themselves and others (Kurunmki
and Miller, 2006, p. 87).
In a broad sense, Management Control is concerned with the accomplishment of goals
and objectives (Anthony, 1965; Otley and Berry, 1980; Merchant and Van der Stede,
2007). Management Control Systems (MCSs) symbolise attempts made by organisations
to design effective mechanisms to implement intended strategies and accomplish these
desired goals and objectives (Langfield-Smith, 2007; Merchant and Otley, 2007; Ferreira
and Otley, 2009). MCSs are then regarded as fundamental to the strategy process and
useful instruments for strategy implementation (Simons, 1995). Although the interplay
between MCSs and strategies has long been discussed by academics, researchers and
practitioners (Nixon and Burns, 2012), there is still limited knowledge about this dual
relationship, particularly at middle and lower management levels (Simons, 1995) and on
the effect of MCSs on strategy or vice versa (Kober et al., 2007).
A key component and subset of MCSs is performance management &
performance measurement systems. Although both terms describe similar processes
(Lebas, 1995; Otley, 1999; Smith, 2005) and are often used interchangeably in the
literature, performance management denotes a more general approach including those
instruments used by managers to improve organisational performance (Ferreira and
Otley, 2009) whereas performance measurement is considered as a subcategory of
performance management focused more closely on indicators, metrics or measures to
evaluate performance issues (Otley, 1999; Goh, 2012). Nonetheless, both practices
embody a managerial activity concerned with the accomplishment of specific outcomes
or results where managers influence people behaviours to put into practice the
organisational strategy and goals (Stringer, 2007; Broadbent and Laughlin, 2009; Adler,
Over the past two decades, a whole array of ideas, initiatives and managerial styles
developed in private organisations have been introduced in the public sector (Lapsley,
2008). This influential change, frequently labelled under the term New Public
Management (NPM) (Hood, 1991) has stimulated the proliferation and popularity of
performance measurement instruments attempting to improve the effectiveness,
efficiency and accountability amongst public services (Hood, 1995; Modell, 2004;
Jansen, 2008). As part of this transformation, the healthcare environment has undergone
significant changes and reforms (Aidemark and Lindkvist, 2004; Nyland and Pettersen,
2004; Pettersen, 2004; Kurunmki and Miller, 2006; Kober et al., 2007; Chang, 2009;
Ellwood, 2009) and governments have been progressively placing higher demands for
improving efficiency and delivering value for money (Chang, 2006) by means of
containing costs and increasing quality (Kelly, 2008; Boyne and Walker, 2010).


Furthermore, this NPM reform has caused a noticeable change in focus from a
reliance on traditional input-oriented processes to strategic performance measurement
systems (PMSs) based on more balanced and comprehensive approaches (Ballantine et
al., 1998; Kloot and Martin, 2000; Aidemark, 2001; Pettersen, 2004; Lehtonen, 2007).
Thus, these contemporary PMSs (Franco-Santos et al., 2012) which include financial
and non-financial measures linked to the organisations strategy (in the case of the
Balanced Scorecard, for instance) have intensified the importance of examining the
relationship between strategy, control and performance. Although these innovative
methods and measurement tools have become critical to evaluate quality improvement or
overall organisational performance (Llewellyn, 1998; Adolfsson and Wikstrm, 2007;
Aidemark and Funck, 2009), there are still a number of obstacles hindering the
accomplishment of desired goals and enhanced performance (Bowerman et al., 2001;
Nrreklit, 2001, 2003; Malina et al., 2007) and causing to some extent negative,
unintended or dysfunctional consequences (Llewellyn and Northcott, 2005; Bevan and
Hood, 2006; Kelman and Friedman, 2009; Lapsley, 2009; Mannion and Braithwaite,
A common concern in the literature is that although more balanced and multifaceted
approaches tend to assist and facilitate decision-making activities, financial and
quantitative assessments still disregard the quality facet of services since qualitative
performance measurement is more difficult to evaluate (Vaivio, 1999; Kloot and Martin,
2000; Pollit, 2006). This complexity arising from the measurement of qualitative
performance (for example, innovation success or failure) has tended to increase the focus
of many organisations on measuring simpler and more controllable quantitative financial
indicators (Jenkins et al., 1998; Newberry and Pallot, 2004). Correspondingly, Verbeeten
(2008) argues that the trade-off between quantitative information represented by shortterm performance targets (i.e., quantity produced and level of efficiency achieved) and
qualitative information characterised by long-term or strategic performance objectives
(i.e., quality and innovation) still remains a key challenge for public organisations.
In the healthcare context, performance measurement is even more complicated
because quality is not a straightforward concept. Measuring quality in industrial
activities is somehow much easier because organisations manufacture relatively simple
and specific products. Processes and practices are entirely oriented to these products
making performance measurement more uniform, homogeneous and predictable. In
contrast, healthcare systems operate in organisational settings with multiple objectives
and stakeholders, a broad variety of products/services and sometimes its intertwined
nature poses challenges to understand the value, causalities and relationships between
such products/services and their processes (de Bruijin, 2002). Another complexity of
examining quality in healthcare constitutes the numerous interpretations and perspectives
followed in the literature (Donabedian, 1980; McGlynn, 1997; Jun et al., 1998; Shaw,
2004; Arah et al., 2006). These multiple viewpoints have been frequently categorised into
measurable indicators such as mortality, intermediate outcome indicators (i.e., medical
errors, infections and complications), or process indicators (i.e., unexpected readmissions
and average length of stay) (de Pouvourville and Minvielle, 2002) and labels including


dimensions such as safety, equity, accessibility, appropriateness, acceptability,

comprehensiveness, efficacy, effectiveness, efficiency or patient centeredness (Institute
of Medicine, 1990; Woodward, 2000; Fletcher, 2001). For this reason, governments and
regulatory bodies use comprehensive strategic programs to evaluate the quality of care
and overall performance delivered by healthcare organisations (vretveit and Klazinga,
2012). Accreditation policies, benchmarking systems, clinical practice guidelines,
national quality strategies or financial rewards/penalties schemes are examples of such
large-scale quality systems (vretveit and Gustafson, 2002; Groene, 2011).

3. Overview of healthcare accreditation systems

() Prior research has focused heavily on accounting systems that hospitals
implement in response to pressure from regulators and insurers to reduce costs.
This focus has been driven by the historical emphasis on cost containment by
regulators and insurers. () More studies are needed to understand how
hospitals balance cost reduction with care quality and how quality incentives
impact hospital accounting, control, and governance systems (Cardinaels and
Soderstrom, 2013, p. 677).
Two of the most common approaches to address quality evaluations are quality assurance
and quality improvement (Adler et al., 2003; vretveit, 2003). On the one hand, quality
assurance refers to the mechanisms applied to certify compliance with a minimum set of
pre-established quality standards. On the other hand, quality improvement denotes a
continuous process of enhancing quality levels by identifying and implementing varied
strategies, measuring performance, and evaluating results and outcomes (Woodward,
2000; Donabedian, 2003). Quality improvement also entails an evolving process that
influences personnel, organisational and cultural structures due to the ongoing
development of practices and attitudes that promote transparency and corporate
responsibility among managerial and medical staff (Shaw, 2004). This dual role relates,
in particular, to hospital accreditation because it has been frequently used as a quality
assessment method that recognises both assurance and improvement (Arce, 1998;
Woodward, 2000; vretveit 2003; Pomey et al., 2010). Its combination of assessment
against predefined standards and supervisory function encouraging cultural changes
encapsulates some of the key purposes of accreditations as, for example, the pursuit of
measurable and sustainable improvements over time (Scrivens, 1997; Arah et al., 2006).
Adler et al. (2003) argue that a noticeable aspect of quality management systems in
hospitals is the shift from assurance of minimum acceptable levels of quality to
continuous improvement in order to guarantee that over the years average quality levels
increase and discrepancies in results and outcomes are reduced. They sustain that: ()
The focus thus broadens to include a whole host of processes contributing to the quality
and cost of care, and it shifts from post-factum assessments to pro-active improvement
initiatives, from a focus on people as the source of errors to a focus on systems and
processes, and from a focus on outliers to a focus on common variance. Whereas


credentialing sought to screen out the incompetent few, the focus now shifts to
continuously upgrading everyones knowledge and skills (Adler et al., 2003, p. 17).
Similarly, Pomey et al. (2004) support the viewpoint that current accreditation processes
are evolving from quality assurance to quality improvement. This transformation in
quality management and accreditation systems denotes as a result a move from external
reviews and yes/no standard checklists to a new measurement approach centred on
internal reviews and self-assessments, active role and participation of personnel,
quantifiable improvement over time, and focus on activities linked to patient satisfaction,
patient safety or prevention of medical errors.
Healthcare performance assessments using standards and guidelines have
proliferated since the 1990s. One of the main rationales underlining the evaluation of
healthcare activities against quality standards is the identification and recognition of
successful organisations. This formal recognition by means of an organised and
methodical process is commonly referred to as accreditation. In a broad sense,
accreditation is a formal, rigorous and well-established assessment process used to
evaluate and promote effective and efficient ways of delivering specific standards (Pomey
et al., 2010). In the healthcare context, accreditation is a widespread tool used by
governments to regulate and guarantee a selection of quality specifications linked to
patient care and safety (Shaw, 2006; El-Jardali et al., 2008). In order to attain public
recognition, accreditation programmes follow a sequence of stages comprising selfassessment, on-site survey, peer review interviews, an official report (with or without
recommendation), an award or refusal, and follow-up evaluations to guarantee that
organisations maintain certified quality levels (Shaw, 2004; Touati and Pomey, 2009;
Braithwaite et al., 2010; Pomey et al., 2010). Participation is voluntary or obligatory
depending on the particular characteristics of regional or national legislations (Shaw,
2003). However, current regulation and legislation trends in the healthcare industry
indicate a growing expansion of mandatory accreditation (Touati and Pomey, 2009).
The literature on the role and consequences of healthcare accreditation has
predominantly focused on changes in professional, managerial and organisational
practices, impact on healthcare outcomes, and patient satisfaction. Despite the fact that a
large number of investigations recognise the positive impact of accreditation on quality
and organisational processes, research to date reveals a complex picture with a mixture
of unclear, conflicting and inconsistent findings with regard to quantifiable improvements
delivered by hospitals (vretveit and Gustafson, 2002; Shaw, 2006; Greenfield et al.,
2007; Greenfield and Braithwaite, 2008; El-Jardali et al., 2008; Nicklin and Dickson,
2009; Pomey et al., 2010; Braithwaite et al., 2011; Greenfield et al., 2012; Hinchcliff et
al., 2012; Mumford et al., 2013; Ng et al., 2013; Nicklin, 2013). For instance,
accreditation systems are seen as quality improvement processes that stimulate
professional development, encourage organisational and clinical practice changes,
provide better information for decision-making to numerous stakeholders, promote
accountability, reinforce local and regional communities confidence in their healthcare
organisations, and operate as an effective mechanism to reduce unnecessary costs and


increase efficiency. In contrast, concerns related to work overload, increase of

administrative tasks, resistance to change, opportunistic behaviour and maintenance costs
undermine a positive implementation of accreditation programmes (See Table 1 in the
Appendix for an overview of the advantages/disadvantages of healthcare accreditation).
The Catalan Accreditation System
The Spanish healthcare system is tax-based and integrates an extensive variety of services
combining aspects of public and private care (Acerete et al., 2011). It is based on a
decentralised model where the provision of healthcare services is managed by the
different regional autonomies (Lopez-Casasnovas et al., 2005; lvarez and Durn, 2013).
The Central Government holds authority over specific areas such as basic legislation and
coordination, financing, pharmaceutical and international health policies. In contrast,
regions or Autonomous Communities (AC) are responsible for its own organisational
structure, purchasing and service provision, planning and accreditation (SnchezMartnez et al., 2006). Typically, the structure of regional healthcare systems comprises
a ministry in charge of regulation, planning and policy activities, and a regional healthcare
service acting as a provider (Garca-Arnesto et al., 2010).
Regional authorities hold as a result full responsibility for authorisation and
accreditation of healthcare organisations in their territory. Catalonia, one of the seventeen
regions in Spain, has a long tradition in hospital accreditation (Fortes et al., 2011). In the
early 1980s and after the transference of healthcare responsibilities from Spain to
Catalonia, the Catalan Department of Health & Social Services introduced an external
quality accreditation system for acute care hospitals (Healy, 2011). This pioneer
experience standardising healthcare quality provision offered by public and private
hospitals became the first accreditation model established in Spain and Europe (Heaton,
2000; WHO, 2003). Although accreditation is theoretically voluntary, in practice
hospitals that wish to secure a contractual agreement with the Catalonian Health Service
(CatSalut4) must be accredited (See Table 2 in the Appendix section for a brief summary
of the key historical accreditation developments in Catalonia).
The accreditation in Catalonia follows a four-stage process including selfassessment, external assessment, commitment to quality through the implementation of
an improvement plan, and certificate attainment. The current acute care hospital
accreditation system was developed by the Catalan Health Ministry and is based on the
Excellence Model of the European Foundation Quality Management (EFQM) combining
standards from the International Joint Commission (IJC) and the International
Organization for Standardization (ISO). Besides, a review examining the experiences
with accreditation in Canada, France and the U.K. was used to design the current Catalan
model. During the first version of this model in 2007-2008, 83 hospitals were accredited
CatSalut is a government institution that operates as a public insurer, recognises health requirements and
needs, purchases services into an internal market to public and private providers (i.e., hospitals) and
evaluates healthcare issues (Gen Badia et al., 2008)


achieving an average compliance to required standards of 82.6% (Lpez-Vias et al.,

2014). In the second process of accreditation in 2013-2014 a total number of 69 hospitals
went through the process of re-accreditation. Hospitals are audited by an independent
external institution through the visits to the different hospitals departments or units and
numerous interviews with organisational members. Accreditation is awarded for a period
of three years5 and hospitals must achieve at least 65% of the total standards to be
qualified. An on-going improvement quality plan related to those standards not
accomplished is carried out during this three-year period.
Management control systems aim to achieve organisational strategies by controlling
resource inputs, influencing the transformation process, and monitoring results or outputs
(Daft and Macintosh, 1984; Parker et al., 1989). Therefore, hospital accreditation is seen
as an external MCS where standards describe how different structures (i.e., personnel,
equipment), processes (i.e., medical protocols, clinical flows) and results (i.e.,
outcomes related to mortality or readmissions) are used to assess the activities and
processes carried out in the different departments. The actual model includes 1,300
standards (696 essentials and 604 non-essentials) and hospitals are evaluated on the
essential standards which are classified under nine dimensions: Leadership, Strategy,
People, Partnerships & Resources, Processes, Customer results, People Results, Society
Results, and Key Performance Results (see Figure 1). Although this model provides a
comprehensive organisational picture, emphasis is primarily placed on Processes and
secondly on Partnership & Resources and Key Performance Results (see table 3 in the
Appendix for an overall view of essential standards). A number of those 604 non-essential
standards have the potential to be incorporated in the next re-accreditations and represent
a self-assessment incentive to engage in continuous quality management practices.
Figure 1. Acute care hospital accreditation in Catalonia

The delay in more than three years in the second accreditation process came after two postponements made by the
Catalan Health Ministry.


4. Theoretical framework
It is well established in the literature that accounting information usually does
not capture all the dimensions of performance considered relevant for an
organisation or manager. If for example, a hospital is managed exclusively on
the basis of cost and revenue information, then it is likely that some arguably
important dimensions of its performance, such as the quality of patient care, will
receive insufficient attention. In such a case, accounting information can be
considered an incomplete representation of organisational performance and thus
also an incomplete guide for appropriate action (Hopwood, 1972). Does such
incompleteness pose a challenge for the realisation of an enabling form of
control? (Jordan and Messner, 2012, p. 546-547).
Accounting research has increasingly adopted a comprehensive and multidimensional
theoretical approach to examine how organisations can accomplish their desired goals
and objectives (Berry et al., 2009). Even though a mixture of various concepts related to
strategic management, public administration, institutional, organisational and
behavioural theories will be used in this research, the primary tool will be based on the
coercive and enabling bureaucracies framework developed by Adler and Borys (1996)
and introduced in the management control field by Ahrens and Chapman (2004).
MCSs are commonly viewed as organisational processes and practices with two
complementary functions (Mundy, 2010; Ylinen and Gullkvist, 2014). They are used to
control the achievement of organisational strategic objectives and to assist as well the
tasks of employees which involve new opportunities and ways of doing things (Simons,
1995; Ahrens and Chapman, 2004; Davila et al., 2009; Adler and Chen, 2011). These
opposing and sometimes conflicting interests require managing organisational goals
while providing employees with some degree of autonomy and flexibility in decisionmaking and problem-solving situations (Spekl, 2001; Sprinkle, 2003; Tessier and Otley,
2012). This type of balance comprising trade-offs or tensions between twofold roles has
generally been categorised in the literature in terms of mechanistic-organic (Chenhall
and Morris, 1995), tight-loose (Merchant, 1985), diagnostic-interactive (Simons,
1995) or coercive-enabling (Ahrens and Chapman, 2004) controls.
Adler and Borys (1996) suggest that depending on the type of formalisation
managers are confronted with (coercive vs. enabling), their attitudes to control will differ.
Coercive systems are characterised by formal detailed rules to enforce compliance and
control employee behaviour (sometimes by means of sanctions/punishments) whereas
enabling systems refer to rules and guidelines encouraging employees to develop their
own capabilities, respond effectively to uncertainties and facilitate decision-making
activities (Ahrens and Chapman, 2004). Furthermore, Adler and Borys (1996) recognise
three types of attributes to classify coercive-enabling systems: (i) the features or
characteristics of the system, (ii) the design process of the system, (iii) and the different
uses of the system. They argue that the design and objectives of control systems are
determined depending on how they are employed. Thus, a system designed with coercive
elements should be used in a coercive manner, while a system conceived with enabling


characteristics will be better managed in an enabling way. When features and uses are
aligned (e.g., coercive attributes with coercive uses or enabling attributes with enabling
uses) the system will lead to its planned or intended purposes. In contrast, a mismatch
between attributes and uses will cause unintended or even dysfunctional outcomes6.
In order to establish whether a control system is enabling or coercive, the purpose
of Adler and Borys (1996) is to identify why and how MCSs might be used to assist rather
than constrain operational management (Ahrens and Chapman, 2004). Adler and Borys
(1996) also suggest the examination of four general and integrated characteristics (repair,
flexibility, internal transparency and global transparency) to achieve a better
understanding of the formal control mechanisms. First, repair refers to the
characteristics within the system that permit employees to improve or change work
processes. It relates to the extent to which employees are allowed to fix and repair
breakdowns and continue working without further interruptions. It also represents the
degree of autonomy that individuals have to use their own judgements to make
appropriate adjustments to prescribed rules and protocols. For example, repair involves
managers consent and ability to modify the definition and measurement of performance
indicators (Wouters and Wilderom, 2008) or the encouragement of knowledge creation
by using prototypes and experimenting with contextualised data (Wouters and Roijmans,
2011). Second, flexibility denotes the extent to which formal systems provide employees
with different choices and alternatives to proceed in completing their tasks. It refers to
the level of discretion that employees have over the use of a determined systems.
Illustrations are provided by Free (2007) in one of the two case studies when the category
management relationship between retailers and suppliers led to a process of adaptation
to individual needs and greater focus on customers knowledge or Jrgensen and Messner
(2009) in their study about process control system for product development where
specific guidelines were modified or adjusted to suit the individual development product
characteristics. Third, internal transparency represents the degree of available
information for employees to understand and recognise the quality of the system and its
status. It relates to the extent to which users are able to see through and understand the
logic of the system. This transparency indicates situations where employees develop a
better understanding of their local processes (i.e., own department or business unit). For
instance, in order for an output control system to be transparent, target values for
performance need to be communicated to managers (Ahrens and Chapman, 2004).
Chapman and Kihn (2009) see enabling budgeting practices as mechanisms that clarify
activities, increase the operational knowledge and guide to a better understanding of
revenue/cost levels carried out in the business units. Finally, global transparency
symbolises how employees perceive the overall system in which they operate. This type
of transparency is associated to the extent to which users understand the upstream and
downstream inferences of their work. In the health environment, global transparency will
allow employees to see how their departmental or unit work contributes to the overall
An example of these unintentional consequences is the concept of mock bureaucracy (Gouldner, 1954) which
reflects how managers and employees are aware of certain organisational rules but they intentionally decide to ignore
them because neither party wishes to enforce these rules (i.e., rules are promoted due to its symbolic attributes but
ignored in real practices)


hospital objectives. Chapman and Kihn (2009), for instance, argue that in the context of
budgeting practices, global transparency is accomplish when it increases managers
understanding of the organisational strategy. Similarly, Free (2007) shows that global
transparency is enhanced when information sharing between retailers and international
suppliers involves proactive supplier participation, joint forecasting and cost sharing.
Previous research examining the coercive-enabling framework in the
management control literature is relatively limited. Features related to the design,
implementation and use of several management systems such as budgets, costing systems,
PMSs and IT systems have been investigated to evaluate their coercive or enabling nature.
The traditional viewpoint of Adler and Borys (1996) suggest that organisations should
select either a coercive or enabling strategy to determine their governance procedures.
However, Ahrens and Chapman (2004) in their UK restaurant chains study argue that
managing organisations using a unique management system may not be feasible and it
could be possible to use both systems simultaneously. Enabling systems are viewed as
control instruments that supports twofold roles: flexibility and efficiency (Ahrens and
Chapman, 2004; Naranjo-Gil and Hartmann, 2006; Jrgensen and Messner, 2009) and
business partner and corporate policeman (Hartmann and Maas, 2011).
While different lines of reasoning support the two types control systems, previous
research has primarily focused on enabling features due to their positive results in terms
of design and use of MCSs and organisational performance (Ahrens and Chapman, 2004;
Wouters and Wilderom, 2008; Chapman and Kihn, 2009; Jrgensen and Messner, 2009;
Wouters, 2009; Wouters and Roijmans, 2011; Groen et al., 2012; Jordan and Messner,
2012; Mahama and Cheng, 2013). Examples of successful enabling mechanisms include
employee engagement, experience-based development, time and autonomy to
experiment, higher transparency, organisational professionalism, support and clear
communication from top management, availability of modern IT systems (e.g., SAP),
strategy alignment, and new opportunities to develop personal skills and capabilities.
Despite the fact that coercive and enabling systems exist side by side (Ahrens and
Chapman, 2004), they are part of the same control continuum (Stansbury and Barry,
2007) and they are not mutually exclusive (Free, 2007), research has tended to separate
them using positive or negative connotations or perceptions. If employees recognise that
formal systems support them to better master their jobs, then control systems are received
positively. In contrast, if employees feel that top management use enforcement and
compliance, formal systems are perceived in a negative sense. However, coercive systems
are necessary for control purposes and they should not always be linked to negative and
undesirable outcomes. Taking into account the accreditation and coercive-enabling
literatures, it can be argued that hospital accreditation systems have simultaneously
coercive (i.e. quality assurance) and enabling (i.e., quality improvement) attributes.
Besides, healthcare settings appear to be a suitable and underexplored approach to
investigate how performance management captures the relationship between cost
containment and quality enhancement.


5. Methodological approach and research methods

This study follows a qualitative and interpretive approach based on case studies of two
public hospitals in one regional area of Spain, Catalonia. The selection of the case sites
was based on similarities in terms of public ownership, willingness to participate and
geographical proximity. Furthermore, the nature of the research emphasises the role of
management accounting practices in everyday life, in its commonplace setting. Data
collection consist of face-to-face semi-structured interviews, different forms of archival
records and documentation, and observational information arising from interviewees
attitudes, awareness of events and personal perceptions. Interviews were conducted using
the principles and guidelines for qualitative research. A meticulous and rigorous approach
comprising informed consent and protection of confidentiality was strictly followed
during the entire process (Denzin and Lincoln, 2011). Ethical approval was given by the
NUI Galway Research Ethics Committee. As a result, triangulation of data (Flick, 2002;
Ahrens and Chapman, 2006) is used to reinforce the credibility and reliability of the issues
investigated (Patton, 2002; Yin, 2009). The use of multiple research sources enables to
address a broad variety of issues and explore how internal and external attributes
influence healthcare accreditation processes.
In order to understand current challenges faced in the healthcare environment,
several pilot interviews were completed during April May 2012 and January 2013 with
top managers and a hospital director in three hospitals. The topics discussed during the
interviews were derived from the control and performance management literatures. Those
interviews enabled discussion of some of the issues associated with control systems (i.e.,
budgeting systems, funding mechanisms and costing systems), different managerial
instruments used for performance management and measurement (i.e., benchmarking
tools, scorecards, dashboards and total quality management techniques) and main
strategic objectives and goals. One of the main purposes during this initial stage was also
to confirm and secure access and plan further interviews with key informants over the
following months. Therefore, a professional and honest relationship with the gatekeepers
in each organisation assisted the researcher in the selection process for potential
interviewees in the following stages. As previously used in numerous accreditation
qualitative studies (Jaafaripooyan et al., 2011), purposive sampling method (Patton, 2002)
was employed to select key organisational members familiar with the process.
Good practice in the data collection process and analysis of the preliminary findings
has been rigorously followed and adhered to (Eisenhardt, 1989; Ahrens and Dent, 1998;
Adams et al., 2006; Yin, 2009). The data collection process includes two stages based on
the agreed interviews for 2013 and 2014. The first phase of data comprises eighteen
interviews with top managers/directors from the healthcare service departments (medical
and nursing units) and supporting activities (accounting and finance, human resources,
general services, maintenance, and information systems) in the selected hospitals during
June August 2013. This exploratory stage was indispensable to validate the suitability
and appropriateness of the coercive and enabling framework in the healthcare context
and recognise the critical role played by the accreditation process. The second phase was


carried out during January May 2014 and consists of twenty-seven interviews with Top
Management Teams (TMTs), middle managers and several individuals belonging to
recognised institutions familiar with the accreditation system (see Table 4 in the
Appendix section for a summary of the interviews carried out to date). A key objective
was to examine the four dimensions of the coercive & enabling framework: repair,
flexibility, internal transparency and global transparency. The role of accreditation as a
catalyst for cost control and quality improvement and other issues related to the
effectiveness, changes and effects of the re-accreditation were also investigated. Although
the original research plan was to examine three hospitals, factors beyond the control of
the researcher (i.e., the possible privatisation of one of the organisations and numerous
impediments to facilitate and arrange interviews with key informants) made possible to
investigate only two organisations.
Most interviews were digitally recorded and when this procedure was not feasible,
extensive notes were taken during each session. Shortly after interviews, more detailed
notes were written to capture valuable perceptions and personal reflexions. Each
interview has been transcribed (either in Spanish or Catalan languages) by the researcher
to identify and classify data into similar topics and common themes. Transcriptions were
followed by a manual coding process to facilitate the identification of relevant issues prior
to further interpretation. This coding approach facilitated the creation of deductive codes
related to the enabling-coercive framework as well as inductive codes derived from the
participants interviews (Fereday and Muir-Cochrane, 2006). Interviews were also
supplemented by document analysis of internal information (i.e., hospital reports,
protocols, clinical processes, improvement plans, accreditation reports) and external
documents (related to the Catalan Health Department) to gain in-depth insight of the
accreditation process. The researcher is currently using NVivo qualitative data analysis
software (Bazeley, 2007) to undertake a more detailed and rich analysis by themes and
sub-themes as well as searching for differences on participants perceptions (Miles and
Huberman, 1994). Arranging information chronologically and recognising emerging
patterns, common topics and key constructs (Eisenhardt, 1989) has been consistently used
as a research strategy to examine coercive and enabling control studies (Ahrens and
Chapman, 2004; Free, 2007; Cools et al., 2008). The purpose is to identify expressions
and quotes about participants perceptions to classify whether accreditation is perceived
as a coercive or enabling system.
The design of this field study research includes two healthcare organisations being
referred to as Hospital L and Hospital S. The name of the hospitals has been modified
to preserve the anonymity and confidentiality of the sources investigated. On one hand,
Hospital L is a large high-technology hospital with almost 1,000 beds covering an area
of two million population. It is owned by the Catalonian government and has a traditional
public model of governance. The majority of the staff are statutory employees (i.e. civil
servants) and the administration of the hospital is under the supervision and organisation
of professional managers. This hospital is one of the top performers in Spain and since
2000 has been frequently awarded with prestigious prizes due to its extraordinary levels
of quality excellence. On the other hand, Hospital S is a small basic general hospital


with less than 100 beds covering an area of reference of 50,000 people. Its foundation
legal status indicates that it is a public not-for-profit hospital that work as an autonomous
accountable organisation (Lpez-Casasnovas et al., 2009) and is regulated by private law
with a certain level of autonomy regarding healthcare services. The hospital has nonstatutory healthcare professional staff and it is a self-governed organisation where top
management has certain degree of freedom to manage its own cash flows, decide where
to invest and whether to buy or lease assets.

6. Initial findings and results

In this section, a summary of the initial findings based on observations and comments
from the two data collection phases is presented. In order to understand the course of reaccreditation is important to underline several significant changes perceived by
participants between the two most recent accreditation processes. First of all, the
economic context has changed. The first accreditation (2007-2008) using the actual model
(a modified version of the EFQM) was evaluated at the end of a booming and prosperous
period whereas the second accreditation or re-accreditation (2013-2014) has been
examined on a period of recession and austerity. This second accreditation was deeply
influenced by the NPM rationale of more with less emphasising the achievement of
similar levels of activity with less workforce and resources. Second, higher demands and
expectations from the Government and changes in the auditing process (more action, less
documents) have pushed organisations to attain better results. Third, a transition era in
terms of technological developments (from paper to digital) has created a large increase
of medical and clinical information sharing. Finally, organisational structures have
evolved to new managerial styles involving higher participation from top management
level, greater delegation and engagement with lower-level staff, multidisciplinary
cooperation between departments and units, and higher collaboration between healthcare
organisations. In this context, a shared concern by a number of participants regarding the
next re-accreditation process is clearly articulated by Klazinga (2010, p. 26): Apart from
the challenge of measurement, the management challenge remains of how to link outcome
measures to policy initiatives, such as financing (associating resource allocation to
performance) or national quality improvement programmes.
Interviewees acknowledged the crucial role of accreditation as a lever of change
(Cooper et al., 2014). Recommendations made by the accreditation surveyors in previous
visits helped hospitals to promote and develop changes. Particular examples include
better use of indicators for decision-making, better clarification and interpretation of rules
and processes by creating new protocols or improving existing ones, the creation of
organisational structures and functions dedicated exclusively to quality and safety issues,
multidisciplinary collaboration at clinical levels, and significant improvements on
information management practices (i.e., digital imaging processes, integration of patient
information, confidentiality issues) and patient safety procedures. A combination of good
leadership, clear definition of strategies and processes, appropriate personnel
management and efficient use of resource seems critical to achieve better results. On the


contrary, several negative effects are noticeable at professional levels, too. Work overload
and administration burden due to an excess of paperwork leading to spending less time
with patients are frequently mentioned. Some medical and nursing staff also perceive
accreditation as a controlling and intrusive mechanism designed to scrutinise their
activities rather than a quality management instrument promoting the development of
collaborative healthcare practices.
According to Touati and Pomey (2009), the theoretical framework developed by
Adler and Borys (1996) points out a number of contextual factors, which in the case of
the accreditation context can encourage or restrain the development of an enabling
system: (i) the legitimacy rationale: participating and collaborative cultures support
enabling mechanisms; (ii) the power distribution: asymmetrical power causes managers
blaming employees for poor results, this hindering learning activities; (iii) external
incentives: organisations facing higher competition or demanding customers are expected
to encourage a learning approach; and (iv) institutional actors: the viewpoint of an
institution (i.e., the government accreditation body) affects the kind of bureaucracy that
sets in a particular environment. The analysis of the interviews conducted during the
second phase reveal a mixture a positive and negative factors related to the contextual
factors affecting the design of the accreditation. The overall perception of participants on
these contextual aspects shows to a certain extent that although the accreditations design
contains multiple constraining elements (i.e., rigidity and inflexibility) its use is fairly
enabling. See Table 5 below for a summary of the main positive/negative contextual
Table 5. Positive and negative impacts of contextual factors
Contextual factors
Legitimacy of the

Power distribution

Positive impact
- Equal treatment for public and private
- Standards are seen as norms of
- Valuable opportunity to take stock of
actual practices and conduct inventory
- Indicators developed for the
accreditation process help decisionmakers
- More delegation at lower levels and
greater support from top management
- Increases the power of some groups:
quality coordinator, nursing staff,
middle-level managers

External incentives

- Accreditations award
- Reputation

Institutional actors

- Participation of professional
associations and other healthcare
institutions in the design and

Negative impact
- Standards of excellence are seen as
requirement and inspection
- Standards are seen as rigid, inflexible
and prescriptive
- Additional time spent on paperwork
and administrative duties

- Increases the power of the Health

- Still limited participation of users
during the accreditation process
- Accreditation is seen as a top
management tool
- Absence of economic/no economic
rewards (i.e., more activity, extra
- Limited feedback from the Health
Department (i.e., benchmarking)
- Compulsory status of accreditation
enforced by the Health Department


The current and unfinished iterative analysis of this study recognises the coercive
and enabling role of accreditation and its four fundamental characteristics (repair,
flexibility, internal transparency and global transparency). The overall viewpoint of
participants is that the accreditation system integrates relatively well both approaches.
However, the enabling features of the control system are more noticeable and to some
extent perceived more positively than the coercive features (see Table 6 in the Appendix
section for some quotes of key informants during the first phase in Jun Aug 2013).
The following summary underlines some preliminary findings related to the
enabling and coercive framework:

Coercive features
- Inspection and scrutiny process:
compulsory requirements for standards,
users have limited opportunities to
express their opinions


- Strict rules and protocols reduce

- Limited latitude and freedom to affect
- Uniform standards poorly adapted to
different departments/units and some
- Rules are communicated to users
without explanations and rationale
- Viewed as a top management tool
- Restricted access and limited
information available to employees
- Some issues with the Health
Department: limited support and
feedback, poor communication



Enabling features
- Users are able to revise and modify
indicators and protocols
- Users can employ and integrate
information systems technologies (i.e.,
different software programs) to required
- Possibility of contesting the
recommendations and conclusions made
external audits
- Better understanding of departmental
processes because rules are explained (i.e.,
accreditation meetings) and users are able
to make sound decision-making
- Information sharing within department
- Better understanding of the strategic
objectives and mission followed by the
- Support from top management
- Multidisciplinary collaboration
- Information sharing across departments
and with other healthcare organisations

Furthermore, the accreditation model is seen as an effective management tool which

recognises organisational efforts towards excellence on quality. The role of accreditation
as a facilitator for quality assurance and continuous quality improvement is widely
recognised as well in the two hospitals (Pomey et al., 2010). Even though the accreditation
system is based on a managerial approach more focused on quality than costs, participants
underline that both organisational objectives are not mutually exclusive. However, the
function of accreditation as a catalyst to simultaneously improve quality and reduce or
contain costs is not fully recognised due to the lack of evidence to corroborate it and the
difficulties to capture and calculate the direct effects and relationships among them.
Despite the fact that performance measurement systems can contribute to the
improvement of healthcare systems, measurement in the public sector can inadvertently
stimulate a whole array of unintended consequences (Smith, 1995; Hood, 2007; Dahler-


Larsen, 2014). Following Mannion and Braithwaites (2012)7 classification of

dysfunctional effects in four categories (poor measurement, misplaced incentives and
sanctions, breach of trust, and politicisation of performance systems) this study did not
find hard evidence of such unintended and dysfunctional behavioural consequences.
However, preliminary findings reveal to a certain degree some signs of poor
measurement in terms of tunnel vision (i.e., emphasis on those measures included in
the essential standards disregarding other relevant but unmeasured elements of quality),
quantification privileging (i.e., concerns about how numbers capture complex social
phenomena and the measurement of softer and qualitative facets of healthcare such as
staff morale or culture) and misplaced incentives and sanctions through
undercompensation (i.e., lack of economic and non-economic incentives by means of
rewarding organisations with new ways of financing or extra training when they achieve
high accreditation scores).

7. Discussion and conclusion

A variety of aspects such as worsening economic conditions, growing and ageing
population, dependence on expensive technological equipment, and higher expectations
by patients and citizens (Spurgeon et al., 2014) are accentuating developments towards
more responsive and sustainable healthcare systems. The provision of high quality
services at reasonable costs is a common challenge faced by worldwide health systems.
A central concern is that policies that aim to reduce costs, increase efficiency or promote
higher competition may cause a reduction in healthcare quality (Or and Hkkinen, 2011).
In such a context, professional groups (e.g. physicians, surgeons and nurses), market
forces and regulation are key drivers that help organisations to improve quality and safety
issues (Berwick et al., 2003). Similar to other powerful and leading sectors such as
telecommunications or banking services, the healthcare industry is extremely influenced
and regulated by governments. Compliance and regulation are used together to guarantee
certain minimum quality levels, assist the governments function as the main healthcare
purchaser, and respond to providers efforts (e.g., hospitals and primary care centres) to
increase the demand for services (Chang et al., 2014).
In order to overcome some of these challenges, the introduction of new managerial
practices, accounting techniques and organisational incentives have changed to some
extent the healthcare sector (Pettersen, 2004; Kurunmki, 2004; Lehtonen, 2007; Dyball
et al., 2011; Kaplan and Witkowski, 2014). In the public sector, concerns about improving
control, facilitating decision-making and promoting performance measurement activities
(Kurunmki and Miller, 2006; Conrad and Guven Uslu, 2011) have popularised
They classified twenty different types of dysfunctional effects in the U.K. National Health Service in four
groups: poor measurement (measurement fixation, tunnel vision, myopia, ossification, anachronism and
quantification privileging), misplaced incentives and sanctions (complacency, silo-creation,
overcompensation, undercompensation, insensitivity and increased inequality), breach of trust
(misrepresentation, gaming, misinterpretation, bullying, erosion of trust and reduced staff morale), and
politicisation of performance systems (political grandstanding and creating a diversion).


expressions such as value for money and more with less (Chang, 2006; Yang and
Modell, 2013) to denote this emphasis for achieving greater efficiency within restricted
resources. However, transformations and changes in healthcare are rather slow compared
to other sectors and industries (Bohmer, 2010) and these innovative instruments not
always have been able to assist organisations in achieving their desired objectives leading
sometimes to negative, unintended or dysfunctional consequences (Smith, 1995;
Llewellyn and Northcott, 2005; Mannion and Braithwaite, 2012)
A number of scholars argue that a close relationship between strategic objectives
and management accounting systems is needed to face growing competitive pressures and
promote long-term viability and clear strategic objectives (Kober et al., 2007; FrancoSantos el al., 2012). Contemporary PMSs (Franco-Santos et al., 2012) or Strategic
Management Accounting (SMA) (Cadez and Guilding, 2008) are seen as helpful
mechanisms to manage some of the problems related to the effectiveness of traditional
control systems. Although healthcare organisations are adopting new management
methodologies to reduce inefficiencies and enhance quality and patient safety, research
is limited. As Lachmann et al. (2013, p. 337) point out: , empirical evidence on the
use of SMA practices in hospitals is scarce. In the hospital setting, the literature mainly
analyzes conventional management accounting and control systems used in the context
of environmental change (Abernethy and Brownell, 1999; Naranjo-Gil and Hartmann,
2006). However, it remains unexplored whether particular SMA techniques are
implemented. Consequently, the study of a hospital accreditation system based on the
EFQM model will expand the literature related to the impact and consequences of
contemporary PMSs. Besides, the mixture of inconsistent and contradictory positive and
negative organisational impacts in the healthcare accreditation literature reinforces the
need for investigating this underexplored topic in the management accounting field.
Adler and Borys (1996) recognise that the design, implementation and use of formal
systems can be assessed by examining four key characteristics: repair, flexibility, internal
transparency, and global transparency. Depending on the features of this
multidimensional approach, the role of control systems can be categorised as enabling or
coercive. However, modern organisations frequently follow a mixture of both systems
(Ahrens and Chapman, 2004) and is difficult sometimes to understand the implications
and relationships between coercive and enabling mechanisms. Although enabling systems
offer managers ways to deal with unanticipated or emergent contingencies, there is still a
need to integrate or combine them with rigid and specific rules to achieve the desired
organisational objectives. The limited attention in the literature to the association and
interaction between coercive and enabling characteristics (Jordan and Messner, 2012)
represents an excellent opportunity to examine performance measurement in healthcare
Overall, this study is critical for several reasons. First, it aims to achieve a better
understanding of how organisations manage the simultaneous pursuit of two challenging
and sometimes conflicting objectives: cost reduction and quality improvement
(Cardinaels and Soderstrom, 2013). Second, this study examines how Adler and Borys


(1996) theoretical framework can be used to understand control differences in the

healthcare context. Research using this particular framework is limited within public
management and accounting literatures and almost non-existent in hospital settings apart
from the quantitative study conducted by Naranjo-Gil and Hartmann (2006) and the
accreditations research carried out by Touati and Pomey (2009). This study investigates
how the enabling and coercive features of an acute care hospital accreditation system
impact on the integration of cost and quality objectives. Coercive controls are seen as
restrictive mechanisms that hinder decision-making activities whereas enabling styles
encourage higher flexibility, transparency and collaboration amongst departments.
Accreditation systems encapsulate both lines of reasoning and recognise the coexistence
of both approaches to successfully implement rules and processes. Quality assurance
denotes compliance to predetermined quality standards whereas quality improvement
promotes changes by incorporating new ways of doings. However, prior studies have
primarily focused on the positive enabling features ignoring deliberately the coercive
mechanisms related to the use of control systems. Therefore, this study aims to achieve a
better understanding of situations where controls are perceived by employees as
ambivalent, i.e., simultaneously coercive and enabling (Adler, 2012). Finally, it is crucial
to examine how the current economic climate and austerity measures have affected
performance management in the public sector. Although research on contemporary PMSs
such as the Balanced Scorecard emphasise its capacity to enhance hospital performance
(Gurd and Gao, 2008; Aidemark and Funck, 2009) it is also expected that various
unintended or dysfunctional behavioural effects in healthcare organisations could emerge
(Llewellyn and Northcott, 2005; Bevan and Hood, 2006; Kelman and Friedman, 2009;
Lapsley, 2009; Mannion and Braithwaite, 2012). For these reasons, investigating
management and accounting practices in the public sector is needed more than ever,
particularly at a time when the language of cuts and costs dictates any debate or
discussion (Yang and Modell, 2013).


Table 1. Advantages and disadvantages of healthcare accreditation programmes


- Promotes change: improves staff engagement and

communication, promotes collaboration with external
stakeholders, promotes organisational learning,
decreases variance in practice among providers and
decision-makers, promotes the use of ethical protocols,
provides a clear vision for sustainable initiatives, better
integration and utilisation of information (i.e.
codification of policies, procedures and protocols),
promotes a quality and safety culture

- Deterioration of working conditions: work overload,

administrative burden

- Encourages professional development: reinforces

interdisciplinary team effectiveness, builds teamworking and collaboration opportunities, increased job
satisfaction, sharing of best practice
- Increases compliance with quality and safety standards
- Stimulates healthcare improvement efforts: mitigates
the effect of adverse effects, reduction of medical errors,
enhances the reliability of laboratory testing, involve
patients and families in quality management

- Organisational culture of resistance to change

- Insufficient training and support: doctors participation
is weak
- Lack of applicable standards for local use
- Funding cuts and decrease on resources
- Potential for opportunistic behaviour (i.e. gaming)
- Lack of participative incentives
- A regulatory approach focused on mandatory
- High costs for sustaining accreditation programmes
- After some years, organisations find accreditations are
no longer challenging

- Increases efficiency: reduces unnecessary costs,

adoption of new processes and systems improving
operational effectiveness, consciousness on the use of
resources (i.e. medication), improvement of internal
- Improves public recognition and reputation
- Provides opportunities for additional funding
(Own source: based on the studies conducted by Greenfield and Braithwaite, 2008; Pomey et al., 2010; Nicklin and
Dickson, 2009; Ng et al., 2013, Mumford et al., 2013; Nicklin, 2013)

Table 2. Historical approach to the Catalan accreditation (Catalan Health Department, 2014)
Timeline 1979-2013
2013: Start of the second accreditation period (2013-2016) for acute hospital care centres
2009: Ceremony of hospital accreditation certificates
2006: Celebration of 25 years of Catalonian accreditation
2006: Start of the new accreditation model, regulated by Decree 5/2006 of 17 January
2005: Presentation of the new Catalonian accreditation model for acute care hospitals
2000: Creation of the Quality Assistance Advisory Council of the Health Care Department
1992: Amendment of the 16 August 1988 Order, adapting the composition of the Advisory Committee for
the Accreditation of acute care hospitals
1991: Third accreditation process for acute care hospitals in Catalonia (10 July 1991 Order)
1988: Creation of the Advisory Commission for the Accreditation of acute care hospitals (16 August 1988
1983: Second accreditation process for acute care hospitals in Catalonia (25 April 1983 Order)
1981: First accreditation process for acute care hospitals in Catalonia (21 November 1981 Order)
1979: Transfer of healthcare competences to Catalonia


Table 3. Distribution of essential standards in the second Catalan Accreditation Process

SECOND ACCREDITATION PROCESS (2013-2014) - Essential Standards (n=696)
1. Leadership (n=71, 10.20%)
a) Leaders develop the mission, vision, values and ethical principles and act as a role model (n=4)
b) Personal involvement of leaders to ensure the development, implementation, continuous improvement and
performance management of the organisations systems (n=50)
c) Organisational leaders know their external stakeholders and create planning tools to understand, anticipate and
respond to the diverse needs and expectations of these groups (n=14)
d) Organisational leaders motivate people and give them support and recognition (n=3)
e) Flexibility and change management. Leaders reinforce a culture of excellence within organisational members
2. Strategy (n=23, 3.30%)
a) The strategy is based on understanding the needs and expectations of stakeholders and the environment (n=8)
b) The strategy is based on understanding the performance of the organisation and its capabilities (n=7)
c) The strategy and its supporting policies are developed, reviewed and updated (included in Criteria 1 and 2a, 2b
and 2d)
d) The strategy and supporting policies are communicated, implemented and monitored (n=8)
3. People (n=59, 8.48%)
a) Planning, management and improvement of human resources (n=20)
b) Identification, development and maintenance of knowledge and peoples abilities in the organisation (n=16)
c) People involvement and responsibilities in the organisation (n=9)
d) Existence of a dialogue between people and the organisation (n=7)
e) People recognition in the organisation (n=7)
4. Partnerships & Resources (n=106, 15.23%)
a) External partnerships management (n=22)
b) Economic and financial resources management (n=6)
c) Buildings, equipment, materials and natural resources sustainable management (n=49)
d) Technology management (n=13)
e) Information and knowledge management (n=16)
5. Processes (n=295, 42.39%)
a) Design, management and improvement of processes (n=12)
b) Products and services are produced, distributed and managed in the following categories: outpatient; urgent care;
care hospitalisation; surgical care; laboratories; blood use and blood components; medication use; radiology,
nuclear medicine and radiotherapy; rehabilitation; nutrition; files and clinical documentation; client management;
infection prevention and control; clinical research; hospitality; warehouse; social care; client education; and ethics
and client rights (n=275)
c) Relations with clients (n=8)
6. Clients Results (n=19, 2.73%)
a) Perception (n=14)
b) Performance indicators (n=5)
7. People Results (n=13, 1.87%)
a) Perception (n=3)
b) Performance indicators (n=10)
8. Society Results (n=17, 2.44%)
a/b) Perception and performance indicators (n=17)
9. Key Results (n=93, 13.36%)
a) Results and key organisational indicators (n=7)
b) Results and key economic indicators (n=5)
c) Results and key operational indicators: key processes and support processes (n=81)


Table 4. Number of interviews carried out in the two hospitals and other healthcare organisations

Job description - HOSPITAL L

-Preliminary interviewsAdministration & Finance Director
Administration & Finance Director
-1st phase of data collection (Jun-Aug 2013)Assistant Director of Human Resources
Maintenance Manager
Information Systems Director
Nursing Head of Quality & Safety + 2 nurses
Assistant Director of Human Resources
Technical Office Manager + Technical Office
Medical Director
Assistant Director of Information Systems

Administration & Finance Director

-2nd phase of data collection (Jan-May 2014)-

Billing Manager
Accounting Manager
Economic Management Manager
Logistics & Purchases Manager
Administrative Contracts Manager
Quality Manager
Hospital Deputy Director
Medical Director
Nursing Director
Administration & Finance Director

Job description - HOSPITAL S

Hospital Director

Time (min)
Recorded / Nonrecorded
76 + 15
28 + 15
13 + 5
37 +15
58 + 15
42 + 60

Hospital Director
Hospital Director
Medical Director
Nursing Director
Human Resources Director
Technical Services Director
Costumer Services Director
Economic & General Services Director
Quality Coordinator
Human Resources Director
Costumer Services Director
Economic & General Services Director
Nursing Director
Technical Services Director
Medical Director

Quality Coordinator
Hospital Director
Total interviews HOSPITAL S = 18

Total interviews HOSPITAL L = 21

-Other related interviews related to this studyExecutive Director (Hospital M)
Preliminary interviews
Executive Director (Hospital M)
First phase
Applications Systems Manager (Hospital M)
Second phase
Quality & Accreditation Director (Catalan Health
Institute Director (Health Institute)
Quality & Accreditation Director + 2 committee
members (Catalan Health Department)
Foundation Director (Health Foundation)
Health Sector Manager (Auditing Firm)
Quality & Accreditation Director + 2 committee
members (Catalan Health Department)
Quality & Accreditation Director (Catalan Health
Second phase
Total Interviews = 49

62 + 15
54 + 15
39 + 10
34 + 15
38 + 15
60 + 15
45 + 25
29 + 15
45 + 15
49 + 15
43 + 20
25 + 15
36 + 15
37 + 30
30 + 30
22 + 5
10 + 45
26 + 120
94 + 50
123 + 30
10 + 30
63 + 120
13 + 30
43 + 20
20 + 10
13 + 45
13 + 30
30 + 15


Table 6. Quotes and perceptions related to accreditation during Phase 1 (June August 2013)
(Hospital L and Hospital S)
Job position
HR Deputy
Hospital L
Nursing Head
of Quality &
Hospital L
Hospital L

Hospital S

Hospital S


Type of



This year we have worked very hard on the whole subject of procedures and protocols:
updating procedures, latest versions available on the intranet, classification by
categories (general, respiratory, etc.) () It was a personal project in our department
and people were highly committed even a few times nurses reviewed more protocols
than originally planned because they thought they were obsolete


We have many protocols more than three hundred and we are always changing and
revising them every two or three years (...) Despite having many protocols you always
find something that it has not been protocolised (...) In fact, we are continuously
creating new protocols and procedures (...) sometimes we use protocols from larger
hospitals or we adapt them to our specific characteristics (...) For example, a few days
ago we finished the protocol Actions delegation: Endoscopy sedation
multidisciplinary team created by the anaesthesia nurse and the endoscopist. This was
the version 2 and it was originally created in 2012 but now we had to renew and change
some aspects
During the accreditation self-assessment process we detected the need to create a
single record document summarising all the protocols and procedures in place (...)
Basically it is an Excel document with all the institutional documents classified
according to the type of document (e.g. medical reports, protocols, informed consent
forms, etc.) indicating the date of creation, updating and reviewing (...) To do this, we
had to create the protocol of the protocols and includes who is responsible for the
documents, how were created, how to update them, revision date, whether to go or not
to the intranet, etc. This protocol has its own importance because it has helped to clean
up a bit our previous mess (...) some protocols were in local computers while others
were in common repositories, different updating procedures, same document had
several versions, etc. Everything now is placed in a common repository, it is available
online, backup copies are constantly created, etc. This really has helped us to clean up
and create some order!



For example, next week we have the hospital accreditation (). Everything is
protocolised (both healthcare and non-healthcare activities). Here at the Human
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Paper in progress for Workshop and PhD seminar

Exploring Russian government budgeting in its context

Igor Khodachek, PhD student at Bod Graduate School of Business

Konstantin Timoshenko, PhD, Associate Professor at Bod Graduate School of Business

Purpose the purpose of this paper is to contribute to knowledge about Russian public
sector budgeting in times of change by exploring the emergence of new norms for the
Russian central government.
Design/methodology/approach in this paper budgeting is viewed as a social institution. A
frame of reference consists of classical neo-institutional theory and its recent incarnation,
known as institutional logics approach. Document search, supplemented with in-depth
qualitative interviews, represents the main method of gathering data for this paper.
Findings An assiduous endeavor to provide an understanding of an emergence of new
Russian government budgeting system is undertaken in this paper. As our evidence
indicates, it now represents a kind of hybrid model influenced by the ideas of New Public
Management, those ideas stemming from the Russian past, as well as a strong rhetoric of
Russian officials aimed at boosting the image of the Russian state as a modern sovereign and
independent player.
Research limitations/implications this paper focuses on budgeting provisions issued over
the last decade at macro-level and does, therefore have limitations with regard to scope.
The findings of the paper may inspire further research on the implementation of described
changes at micro-level, including regional and local governments as well as public sector
Originality/value In line with the existing research on Russian governmental accounting
(see e.g. Bourmistrov and Mellemvik, 1999, 2002; Bourmistrov, 2001, 2006; Timoshenko,
2008; Timoshenko and Adhikari, 2009a, 2009b, 2010; Adhikari et al., 2012; Bourmistrov and
Antipova, 2013), this paper strives to introduce rather unexplored phenomenon of Russian
governmental budgeting to international research community. A theoretical contribution is
linked to the literature on accounting/budgeting hybrids as a recently emerged way of
seeing the outcomes of public sector reforms. The study ensues from viewing national
traditions as one of competing logics triggering the reforms along with New Public
Management logics.
Key words: Russian public sector, budgeting reforms, New Public Management, New Public
Governance, Neo-Weberian State, Institutional Logics, hybridization and hybrid models.


1. Introduction
Public sector is a significant part of global and national economies. It contributes with
around 30 per cent to the worlds gross domestic product in terms of expenditures, ranging
from 11 to 51 per cent in national economies (Bandy, 2011). Until the end of 1970s the
ideas of Webers (1922) rational bureaucracy had constituted the theoretical foundation for
managing public expenditures and the provision of public services (Pollitt and Bouckaert,
2011). Among other things, these ideas included, but were not limited to, detaching public
administration from political agenda but seeking for a good or right behavior of public sector
administrators in performing their tasks (Wilson, 1887). Over the last three decades we have
witnessed substantial efforts to reinvent public sector worldwide. New Public
Management as a comprehensive package of ideas (Hood, 1991), variations of a theme
(Hood, 1995), or as a label for the clusters of reforms, has been on the top of the agenda in
public administration in the West (Hood, 1991; OECD, 1995). Having become increasingly
known as a more or less global trend (see e.g. Sahlin-Andersson, 2001), this development
has envisaged the manifestation of a paradigmatic shift, i.e. a change from the traditional
bureaucratic model invented by Max Weber towards the management model. While the
idea under the former was the efficient execution of legal authority and power, the idea of
New Public Management (NPM) has been the efficient management of public resources in
a more businesslike way as a result of a new economically defined role of state operations
and functions (Budus and Buchholtz, 1996; Naschold, 1995; Eliassen and Kooimann, 1993).
Among the claimed arguments for NPM reforms, there has been more efficient and effective
use of resources, augmented accountability, greater focus on outputs, and better
performance (Hood, 1991, 1995; Boston et al., 1996; Olsen et al., 2001; Mellet, 2002).
Along with many accomplishments, NPM has received a lot of criticism from academia and
professional community (see e.g. Lapsley, 2008, Drechsler and Kattel, 2008). As documented
by e.g. Brunsson and Olsen (1993) more than two decades ago, this criticism has partially
stemmed from a general notice that public sector reforms rarely go as expected or designed
by policymakers. It is worth noting here that the existing patterns examples of successful
implementation of public sector reforms have been often described by those authors
affiliated with international financial institutions such as International Monetary Fund
(Dabla-Norris et al., 2010) and Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development


(Ruffner, Sevilla, 2004, Webber, 2004). At the same time, academic researchers have
unveiled a huge gap between the ideal reform concepts and the application of new financial
instruments (Bogt and Van Helden, 2000). The resilience of traditional public sector financial
instruments in some of the leading Western economies has been claimed as an important
implication for the reform process (Jones et al., 2013). Among those vivid examples of NPMlike reforms with national flavor are e.g. the New Zealand model, the Canadian and the
Belgian models, as well as the German one, just to name a few (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011).
Furthermore, new trends have been recently emerged in the literature, threatening to
challenge the ideological leadership of NPM in the field of public sector reforms and even to
dismiss it. As Pollitt (2009) has pointed out, traditional bureaucracy excels post-bureaucratic
forms of organization in terms of organizational memory and capability of learning from
experience. In turn, Drechsler (2013) has introduced three potential paradigms of
governance and administration: Chinese, Western and Islamic, thus accentuating the
significance of national (regional) contexts in public sector developments. Furthermore, as
documented by Pollitt and Bouckaert (2011), many national or regional models have been
established by distinguishing themselves from Anglo-Saxon model (e.g. Nordic model in
Veggeland, 2007), implying that the most far going changes on the NPM track have been
achieved in Anglophone countries.
However, despite criticism of many aspects of NPM for its declared merits, there is still a
wide consensus in the literature (see e.g. Lapsley, 2008) that NPM will continually stay
attractive for policymakers in the foreseeable future and challenge public sector managers
while facing resistance and opposition from profession. As a matter of fact, the recent
literature on NPM may be channeled into two streams. One strengthens the trend of
government reduction while concentrating wider on inter-organizational settings known as
New Public Governance (Osborne, 2010). The other brings evidence of different model,
partially re-inventing the merits of historical ancestor of NPM Public Administration. This is
what has come to be known as Neo-Weberian state (Drechsler and Kattel, 2008; Lynn, 2008;
Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011). Interestingly enough, Pollitt and Bouckaert (2011) insist on the
existence of three recently emerged big models of public sector reforms: New Public
Management, Neo-Weberian State and New Public Governance. At the same time, as Wiesel


and Modell (2014) have reported, the governance logics assigned to these three models may
all coexist together through the process of hybridization.
Hybridization and hybrids are deemed not only promising in terms of their scientific value,
but also seem to be more realistic approach for practitioners, especially policymakers and
reform designers. The research on hybrid models has gained in significance in recent years
and streams roughly into two major directions (Wiesel and Modell, 2014). One examines the
process of hybridization (Kurunmaki, 2004; Kurunmaki and Miller, 2006, 2011; Wiesel and
Modell, 2014), while the other investigates hybrid forms of organizations (Brown et al.,
2003; Jacobs, 2005). The contexts taken for the research on hybridization and hybrids have
first and foremost covered OECD nations such as Australia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Sweden
and UK (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011), while there is still a paucity of systematic research
efforts on public sector reforms in developing countries and those in transition, including
former Soviet bloc and its core the Russian Federation.
Throughout the history, the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and then the Russian
Federation represent an example of a society modernizing itself through rapid changes
affecting social sphere and being affected by leading ideologies (Bourmistrov, 2001). The
role of the state in production of public goods and commodities has been changing, albeit it
has always stayed remarkably significant. Some researchers have claimed that changes in
Russias nascent public sector have served not for enhancing instrumentality, but rather for
supporting the legitimacy of the Russian state on the international arena (Timoshenko, 2008;
Timoshenko and Adhikari, 2010). Although on-going changes fit seemingly well with Russian
top political agenda, they have come into a contradiction with the existing accounting
tradition, as evidenced by Antipova & Bourmistrov (2013). Such a behavior may pursue to
provide a good image of the Russian state for foreign investors and state leaders, as well as
for supra-national institutions like the International Monetary Fund. Neo-institutional
theorists could argue that this is quite anticipated situation providing that such changes are
viewed as going from the top and seen as an adaptation to the environment (Meyer and
Rowan, 1977; DiMaggio and Powell, 1983). However, bearing in mind the presence of strong
Russian accounting traditions (Bourmistrov, 2001; Antipova & Bourmistrov, 2013), there
could also be enough space for competing institutional logics fostering the hybridization
process and giving rise to hybrid models. For instance, it may be assumed that New Public


Management could be one logic in place, competing with the Russian tradition (e.g. Public
Administration tradition) as the other logic. Changes in Russian public sector thus may be
comprehended as part of an interactive process of institutional development rather than
solely the outcome of legitimization or isomorphism.
With some minor exceptions, a current body of research on recent developments in Russian
public sector is meager. While developments in Russian central and local government
accounting are already studied by Western researchers, there is conscious absence of
rigorous research efforts on the Russian government budgeting system in Western Englishlanguage literature. Indeed, there is virtually nothing about Russian central government
budgeting in CIGARs publications and in most of international accounting and budgeting
research networks, workshops, and groups. Such a paucity of knowledge can be considered a
valuable source of motivation to augment our knowledge in the field of Russian central
government budgeting, both in terms of theoretical development and empirical knowledge.
That is why the present research is intended to contribute to the literature by enhancing our
knowledge about an unknown budgeting system.
Based on the mentioned above, the purpose of this paper is to contribute to knowledge
about Russian public sector in times of change by exploring the emergence of new norms of
budgeting for the Russian central government. A time span for the research covers a period
commencing from the outset of a new millennium and continuing until recently, with the
most significant government initiatives discussed. Noteworthy, the paper focuses on
budgeting provisions issued over the last decade or so at macro-level and does, therefore
have limitations with regard to scope. Document search, supplemented with in-depth
qualitative interviews, represents the main method of gathering data for this paper. A
theoretical contribution is linked to the literature on accounting/budgeting hybrids as a
recently emerged way of seeing the development and the outcomes of public sector
reforms. The findings of the paper may inspire further research on the implementation of
described changes at micro-level, including regional and local governments, as well as public
sector organizations.
The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. The next section offers an overview of
the previous research on governmental budget where budget is understood as social


construction. A theoretical framework is then introduced, consisting of classical neoinstitutional theory and its recent incarnation, known as institutional logics approach.
Section 4 deals with methodological issues pertinent to the present study. Section 5 gives a
more contextual understanding of broader public sector reforms in Russia and recent
alterations in Russian governmental budgeting brought about by the federal government. In
the penultimate section, the viewing of budgeting as a social institution is utilized in
attempts to gain a clearer understanding of what eventually affected the thinking round
Russian government budgeting to change the reform path.

Section 6 presents some

concluding remarks and proposals for further research.


2. Budget as a social institution

Budget can represent different meanings for different purposes. It may be a calculative
practice. It may be a technology to predict and describe a future. It may be used to set
purposes and put price labels on them thus providing a possibility for making choices or, in
other words, serve as a decision-making tool. It may be seen as a contract, as a law or a rule
to follow and a precedent to reproduce (Wildavsky, 1974). In a democratic governance
model budgeting in a public sector is considered as an organizational practice assisting local
actors to manage local economy and welfare production, meaning that budget provides
finances and an important element in democratic governance where the wishes of
individuals (e.g. electorate) as well as resources are meant to be converted into collective
action by discovering and implementing policy coalitions (March & Olsen, 1995). Budget may
be treated as a management accounting tool thus performing the main functions that are
assigned to accounting: support of legitimation and the exercise of power (Mellemvik et al.,
1988; Grseth-Nesbakk and Timoshenko, 2014). Accounting is viewed as socially constituted
or socially constructed (Grnhaug et al., 1997; Garrod and McLeay, 1986; Laughlin, 1988;
Dillard, 1991), meaning that the computational practices and techniques of accounting are
intrinsically and irredeemably social (Miller, 1994: 4). Having originated from institutional
theory in general and the concept of legitimation in particular, this view tends to define the
phenomenon being researched as:
a set of practices that affects the type of world we live in, the type of social
reality we inhabit, the way in which we understand the choices open to business
undertakings and individuals, the way in which we manage and organize activities
and processes of diverse types, and the way in which we administer the lives of
others and ourselves (Miller, 1994: 1);
Using a similar vein of thought, Miller (1994: 4) spoke of the power of accounting to create
a particular realm of economic calculation of which judgments can be made,
actions taken or justified, policies devised, and disputes generated and
In this article an understanding of budget as of a social institution is being developed. Thus


by institution authors mean:

an (observable) pattern of collective action (social practice), justified by a corresponding
Czarniawska, 1997 in Czarniawska, 2009, p. 423
Our aim is to construct the view of budget as of a social institution in the context of society
in transition.
To be developed


3. Institutional theory on organizational changes and reforms

Institutional theory has been a dominating approach in describing organizational changes in
European and American social sciences for last 50 years. It focuses attention on the
relationships within and among organizations. Some of the most well-known understanding
of these relationships brings us to the categories of organizational structure as a myth and
ceremony (Meyer and Rowan, 1977) and isomorphism of three types normative, coercive
and mimetic (DiMaggion and Powell, 1983).
As Czarniawska (2008) takes it:
institutional theory is not a theory at all, but a framework, a vocabulary, a way of thinking
about social life, which may take many paths
Czarniawska, 2008: p. 770
Institutional logics authors see themselves as successors of new institutionalists sharing with
Meyer and Rowan (1977) and DiMaggio and Powell (1983) a concern with how cultural rules
and cognitive structures shape organizational structures. However their main focus is not on
the isomorphism,
but on the effects of differentiated institutional logics on individuals and organizations in a
larger variety of contexts, including markets, industries, and populations of organizational
forms Thornton and Ocasio, 2008, p. 100
Moreover, the approach of institutional logics
provides a bridge between the macro, structural perspectives of Meyer and Rowan (1977)
and DiMaggio and Powell (1983) and Zuckers more micro, process approaches
Thornton and Ocasio, 2008, p. 100
Institutions are known to constrain actions. However, institutional logic trend-setters state
that institutions also provide sources for agency and change. This is associated with the
contradictions between or among different logics. In these contradictions individuals and
groups can find sources for transforming individual identities, organizations, and society
(Thornton and Ocasio, 2008).


Institutional logics are defined as

the socially constructed, historical patterns of material practices, assumptions, values,
beliefs, and rules by which individuals produce and reproduce their material subsistence,
organize time and space, and provide meaning to their social reality
Thornton and Ocasio, 1999, p. 804
To be developed..


4. Research method
This study focuses on the normative aspects of changes in budgeting for the Russian central
government. Thus, the main interest here is to identify and describe those reform ideas as
they are first and foremost reflected in official documents. Through analyzing documents
themselves and conducting non-structured interviews with experts and public sector
practitioners, we are intended to construct an analytical overview of budget reform
sequences that have taken place in Russias public sector since the beginning of a new
millennium until recently. The relevant articles on the topic, authored by top-level
government executives, are also considered the primary data. Following terminology,
suggested by Pollitt and Boukaert (2011) official documents represent decisions, while
interviews and papers are talks.
Table 1. Researching public management reforms




More and more people are
talking and writing about a
particular idea (e.g. contracting
The authorities (governments,
public boards, etc.) publicly
decide to adopt a particular
Public sector organizations
incorporate the reform into
their daily operational
The results (outcomes) of the
activities of public agencies
change as a result of the

Quick and cheap. Monitoring what people are
talking and writing about is fairly
Again, quick and cheap. The public decisions of
the authorities can usually be located quite
quickly (on the Net, often without leaving ones
Probably requires expensive and timeconsuming eldwork. This needs both funding
and access
Final outcomes are frequently difcult (and
expensive) to measure. Even more frequently
there is an attribution problem, i.e. one cannot
be sure how much of the measured change in
outcomes can be attributed to the reform
itself, as opposed to other factors

Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011, p.13

Budgeting norms are easily accessible and publicly available on the Internet (see e.g. the
Federal Ministrys of Finance website www.minfin.ru and ) and in libraries. In searching for
them, snowballing sampling is largely utilized, giving rise to a rich collection of normative
documents. These includes various laws, presidential decrees, cabinet resolutions, concept


papers, and ministerial orders, which all contributed to a better understanding of the
process of budgetary development and changes in the Russian public sector. A full list of
norms employed for studying budgeting at the macro-level is contained in Appendix 1. While
collecting and assessing these norms, it is essential to assemble them with respect to a
particular transition period, their institutional source, and the degree of accounting
regulations laid down in them.
The search for official documents is supplemented by informal face-to-face interviews with
public officials embedded in the budgetary changes. These are undertaken with the aim of
boosting the level of detail and care. The primary aim of these interviews is to get
acquainted with outgoing and emerging budgeting norms in order to reveal differences and
commonalities in their content, to make sense out of them, and to enhance confidence in
our own comprehension and interpretation of them being correct.
Besides this, a multitude of other independent and additional texts available throughout
the study (i.e. those from Russian and international budgeting textbooks, articles, press
clippings, ) were utilized. A large portion of these texts was derived from the Internet (see
Appendix 2).
As observed throughout the data gathering process, a number of publications tackling the
topic of public sector budgeting have considerably grown over the last few years. Indeed,
while Russian government budgeting was drawn little academic and official attention in the
1990s, the situation varies dramatically now. To illuminate this, the launch of the Budget
Process Reform Paper for 2004-2006 made a shift from towards an urgent task. In
response, Russian accounting and budgeting journals such as Finansy [Finance] and
Budget[Budget], just to name a few, advocate the move towards an up-to-date
budgeting system in their pages.


5. Empirical section
Throughout the history, the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and then the Russian
Federation represent an example of a society modernizing itself through rapid changes
affecting social sphere and being affected by leading ideologies (Bourmistrov, 2001). The
role of the state in production of public goods and commodities has been changing, albeit it
has always stayed remarkably significant. After the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991,
Russia went through many turbulent times on its way towards a full-fledged market
economy and democracy. Despite a severe and devastating economic recession throughout
the nineties, a myriad of different ideas and policy measures aimed at reforming and
modernizing Russian society had been put into an agenda. This enabled formation of the
basic institutes of the market economy and democracy in the country. As a consequence, the
relationship between the Russian state and the rest of the economy, as well as the rules of
the game, had dramatically been altered. A totalitarian economy had gradually been
superseded by a competitive market economy, giving rise to a nascent Russian private
sector. The latter was considered a key factor for laying down the foundation for subsequent
economic growth.
While the country had made some important strides towards establishing a robust private
sector under Yeltsins reign, the development of the government sector appeared to lag far
behind. Albeit the economic conditions had undergone significant alterations, those public
organizations rendering social services in such areas as education and health care remained
virtually unchanged since the Soviet era (see e.g. Tokarev, 2000; Beliakov et al., 1998;
Tragakes and Lessoff, 2003). Additionally, corruption became a serious problem (EBRD,
2004). According to Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2004,
Russia's score of 2.8 out of 10 (where 10 is "clean") suggested that corruption was
"rampant" and endemic (Transparency International, 2004). The Russian score was better
than most CIS countries, but well below that of the advanced transition economies, placing
the Russian Federation amongst the most corrupt countries in the survey. The 2002 Human
Development Report provided similar evidence by ranking the RF below the average in terms
of government effectiveness and an aggregate index for democracy titled Voice and
Accountability (Saghal and Chakrapani, 2002).


Since President Putin came into the Kremlin in 2000, questions of how to modernize Russian
public administration came to the fore, heralding the launch of a more or less
comprehensive policy pattern. During his first four-year term in office, Putin had shown
himself determined to build a strong state and use it to tackle all Russias problems. As he
elucidated this himself:
For Russians, a strong state is not an anomaly Quite the contrary, [Russians]
see it as a source and guarantor of order and the main driving force of any
change (Business Week, 2000)
So, during the recent decade Russian state has significantly increased its presence in the
national economy (IMF, 2013). First, this was done through state-owned companies, state
corporations and enterprises that produce around 50% of Russian GDP (OECD, 2013). Second
- through the growth of public expenditure from federal and regional budgets that in total
represent around 37.5% of country GDP (data from Russian Ministry of Finance and Ministry
of Economic Development web-pages, calculation made by authors for 2012).
Since Putins easy re-election in the first round in 2004, reform energies were intensified
with rapid velocity. In this context, appeals for boosting efficiency, effectiveness, and
accountability began to be widely heard in the country, serving as truths, in the name of
which, the Russian state was to be revitalized. Driven by a motto to double Russias GDP by
2010, a series of initiatives were put forward by government officials, signalizing a clear-cut
shift in the ideology in Russian public administration (Russia Journal, 2004b). In fact, the
decision to radically transform the Russian state was based on the recognition that a public
sector modeled on the needs of central planning was ill suited to the demands of a market
economy (World Bank, 2003). This initiated the need for important institutional reforms to
be introduced. According to EBRD (2004), such reforms were necessary in order to increase
confidence in the state institutions, to strengthen their policy and reform implementation
capacity, to effectively rein in corruption, and to raise efficiency and quality of public
services (p. 20).
Amongst those reform efforts, the modernization of the whole budget process was
announced to be at the core of the Russias program of economic transformation and
development with the primary goal of boosting accountability in government


expenditures. Advocates of the reform stressed that granting managers more autonomy in
place of asking them for more accountability for the consequences of their decisions would
enhance the quality and efficiency of provided services (Avdasheva et al., 2005, Tambovtsev,
2004). Referring to former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, the budget policys
restrictive impact on [business] opportunities, its inability to maximally make use of federal
finances, and the necessity to create conditions that correspond to government priorities
were claimed as the main drivers for the change (Russia Journal, 2004a).
The importance of these efforts could hardly be emphasized enough as they were laid down
in the Concept of the Budget Process Reform for 2004 2006 endorsed by Cabinet
Resolution # 249 on May 22nd, 2004 (hereafter, the concept). This was followed by an April
30th Russian Cabinets of Ministers Resolution # 225 creating a commission for augmenting
the efficiency of government expenditures under the chairmanship of the Deputy Prime
Minister Alexander Zhukov, empowered to guide this reform effort (Finansovya Gazeta,
2004; Diamond, 2005). Deputy Prime Minister Zhukov stressed that implementing the
Concept of the Budget Process Reform would be a step of vital social significance as it would
make government expenditures clear and transparent to each Russian citizen.
The launch of the Budget Process Reform in effect caused quite a stir in Russian mass media.
Colorful headings like A Reform for the People, A Real Breakthrough in Boosting the
Efficiency, or A Budgetary Revolution abounded in Russian newspapers (see e.g.
Kommersant; Finansovye Izvestia) and Internet sites. Indeed, the search for its title in
www.yahoo.ru and www.google.ru resulted in more than 400 different references (links) in
each data-base. According to NEI-Moscow News (2004), the reason for this was pretty
obvious, namely to make government officials work for the citizens, and to hold them
accountable to the latter. All this could be traced back to the 2001 Budget Message of the
Russian President to the Federal Assembly explicitly addressing the need for furnishing a
real openness and transparency of budgets and budgetary procedures at all levels of the
budget system. Although in diverse ways, this message was increasingly reiterated by the
Russian President in the subsequent years. For example, in his 2002 Budget Message
President Putin spoke of public information that would transparently disclose those financial
flows released to various budget recipients in order to support their activities. Last, but not


least, in his 2005 state-of-the-nation address, Putin underscored the right of all Russian
citizens to having equal access to public information.
The main objective of the reform process, as stated in the concept, was to lay down
preconditions and prerequisites for the most effective allocation and management of
government finances by appropriate prioritization of various governmental activities
considered to have critical bearing on a countrys development (p. 2). In essence, the
reform process was meant to move away from the costs and inputs [administration of
resources] towards goals and outputs [management by results] by strengthening the
accountability and widening the managerial autonomy within a medium-term financial
planning framework (p. 2). The adoption of a modern budget management model, directly
translated from Russian as results-oriented budgeting, was said to be the nucleus of the
up-to-date organization of the budget process (p. 3), aimed at forging a more direct link
between allocating resources through the budget and performance in reaching stated
government objectives.
As derived from above, the main idea behind the concept was to make administrators of
budget funds (line ministries and agencies) more accountable and to better monitor their
performance. In this model, the budget is to be formulated on the basis of a clear-cut exante specification of the performance expected of each budget administrator. As a
repercussion of the transformation process, budget appropriations are to be directly linked
to the various government functions and divided into distinctly individual programs. To be
meaningful, they are to be set in a medium-term budget framework, in the sense of a rolling
forecast of fiscal aggregates for the budget year plus two forward years (see more in Petrov,
2005; Lavrov, 2004).
The resources allocated to the programs are to be determined and grouped under
responsibility of administrators of budget funds (so-called Subjects of Budget Planning).
The latter are to be given the degree of managerial autonomy and freedom in decisionmaking they need to achieve the tasks assigned to them. For instance, the concept allowed
allocations to be freely redistributed by administrators within each program. At the same
time, as was clearly emphasized in the text of the concept, line ministries and agencies are to
be held directly accountable for meeting a contracted level of outputs by carrying out


monitoring and subsequent external audit of finances and results of activities, so that good
budgetary performance would be rewarded while poor performance would be penalized.
Perhaps most importantly, a new reform agenda embarked on in Russian general
government sector was announced to encompass the following five policy headings:
1. Modernizing the budget classification and government accounting.
2. Distinguishing







proposed/assumed policy (prinimaemykh) commitments when preparing the

3. Enhancing medium-term financial planning.
4. Developing and expanding program- and performance-oriented methods of
budget planning.
5. Improving and streamlining those procedures for budget preparation and budget
To begin with, none of the aforementioned budgeting goals in support of boosting
accountability, transparency, effectiveness, and efficiency in government expenditures was
expected to be achieved without related changes in the accounting system. This was also
quite evident from the 2004 Budget Message of the President to the Federal Assembly which
stressed the need for a system of government accounting that was capable of not merely
controlling the use of budgetary expenditures, but assessing the effectiveness of their use as
well. That is why reinventing Russian public accounts occupied the leading place among
those policy directions laid down in The Concept of the Budget Process Reform. Along with
the budget classification, the reforming of Russias public sector accounting system, as
stated in the concept, was
a necessary and indispensable precondition in modernizing a countrys budget
process. Both the budget classification and accounting system should become a
reliable tool that ensures transparency of those activities of the state bodies and
administrators of budget resources, and provides with a wealth of financial
information required throughout all the phases of the budget process, emanating
from the analysis of the previous periods financial results, to the preparation and


presentation of the draft budget, and its execution throughout the fiscal year up
to the generation of final accounts (p. 4).
Under this rubric, the objective of the transformation process was declared twofold. One
was to make the budget classification closer to international best practice by incorporating
the IMF GFS classification methodology. Another objective was to introduce a Chart of
Accounts, integrated with the budget classification, so that all spending units would be
brought under a single budget classification and a single Chart of Accounts. The purpose of
so doing was to enable the effect of decisions made in the fiscal and budgetary sphere on
the stock of assets and liabilities to be judged upon, as well as for the assessment and
preparation of reports on budget execution.
The second policy measure was intended to cut significantly down the time devoted to the
process of budget formulation and approval. To make things clearer, present commitments
are those obligations which are predetermined by varying compulsory provisions and
regulations endorsed earlier and liable to be included in the budget automatically. On the
other hand, the new assumed/proposed policy commitments envisage those expenditures,
the insertion of which into the budget is dependent upon decisions being made directly in
the course of budget preparation for the next fiscal year. To be included in the budget, the
latter are to be subjected to thorough scrutiny. As were recognized, nearly 90-95 per cent of
commitments were already locked-in so the truly new programs occupied 5-10 per cent of
the budget (Diamond, 2005).
The third element of the reform package aimed at ensuring the augmented reliability of
medium-term forecasting for those resources available to budget managers. Specifically, the
budget for the forthcoming fiscal year is to become a constituent part of an annually
updated rolling multi-year (normally three-year) fiscal document. In analogy with Soviet fiveyear plans, some Russian mass media nicknamed these as three-year plans (Finansovye
Izvestia, 2004a, 2004b).
The fourth direction was declared to be the keystone of the reform package, directed at
establishing a procedure for assessing the effectiveness of budget expenditures. Viewed in
this way, it presupposed a step-by-step move away from the view of budget as primarily


focused on resource allocation and input control (so-called smeta financing or resource
management) towards program and performance-oriented budgeting.
Finally, the fifth area of the transformation process envisaged the streamlining of procedures
for budget preparation and budget approval to also meet the requirements of medium-term
performance-oriented budgeting. In particular, the concept proposed the draft law on the
federal budget for the next fiscal year to be approved in three readings as compared to the
previous four. Above all, the concept substantially extended the power of the executive
bodies in the course of budget execution.
Since the concept was put into force, fast and rapid changes may be witnessed on both
federal and regional levels of state. Some practitioners see these changes as constant
ongoing process:
Doing reforms is like riding a bicycle: if you stop turning pedals you fall.
Informant 1, 2013
However, government executives, officially responsible for policy-making in governmental
budgeting claim that there are clear stages and milestones that may be traced in this sphere
after 2000:
Table 2. Milestones from Lavrov, 2005:


Stage 1 management of expenditures

Before 2000
- Balance of budget
- Cash-based accounting
- Treasury
- Targeting expenditures according to
- Methodology of financial support
Stage 2 transition period
- Performance oriented budgeting
- Medium-term expenditure framework
Stage 3 management of results
- Separation of budget system levels
- Mid-term planning

Corresponding document
(if applicable)
Budget Code -1998;

The Concept of reforming

budget process in Russian
Federation in 2004-2006;
Budget Code - 2004

After 2008


Target and Result oriented budgeting

Reorganizing of budget entities
Accounting and reporting according to
international standards

Table 3. Milestones from Nesterenko, 2008:



Stage 1
Before 2004
- strengthening the budget execution
- reporting, based on cash accounting;
- providing external control of budget
Stage 2
- balancing expenditures of public
entities with their resources
Stage 3
After 2008
- implementing
resultoriented budgeting;
- reporting on financial condition of
public entities, based on accrual
- implementing internal control and

Corresponding document
(if applicable)
Budget Code -1998;

The Concept of reforming

budget process in Russian
Federation in 2004-2006;
Budget Code - 2004
Budget Code - 2007

So, since 2000 until 2014 there have been several stages and milestones in the change of the
normative framework regulating how the budgets are done. Although previous changes have
also been significant, in this article 2004 is taken as a starting point. The reform of the
governmental budgeting in Russia was announced in 2004 by approving The Concept of
reforming budget process in Russian Federation in 2004-2006 (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 2004).
In their rhetoric Ministry of Finance officials address to foreign experience and use the term
performance-oriented budgeting (Lavrov, 2005). The 10-year period ends with the address
of Russian President to Russian Federal Assembly in 2013 (Annual Address of President of
the Russian Federation to Federal Assembly, 2013).


The performed analysis resembles the sequencing approach should do and must do for
donor community, promoted by authors or editions, close to IMF or other international
financial institutions (Allen, 2009; Bietenhader and Bergman, 2010).


Table 4. Summary of empirical findings

Evidences of NPM-like approach
- Appeals to NPM rhetoric
(performance, efficiency)
- Move towards accrual-based
accounting and budgeting
- Sequencing methodology
- Treasury, Accounts Chamber,
- Mid-term expenditure framework
- Performance measurement
- Program-Based Budgeting
- Creation of special-purpose-vehicles
for provision of public services
- Education for government:
manager qualification
- Hiring managers and top executives
with business background

Evidences of non-NPM approach(-es)

- Appeals to sovereignty and
modernization of the state
- Resilience of cash accounting,
parallel and hybrid systems
- Federal law on strategic planning:
- 6-year plans for the country,
agencies, regions and industries
- budget is subordinate to plans
- New public service entities are
created as multi-functional centers
- Academy of Public Administration as
the main education institution
- A special legislation for public
servants that puts them outside from
normal labour relationships

To be developed..

6. Discussion
To be developed..

7. Conclusions
In the last few decades we have witnessed substantial efforts to reinvent public sector
worldwide. Since early 1970-s significant attempts to modernize public sector has been
made worldwide under New Public Management (NPM) paradigm as a response to
government growth and several other challenges (Hood, 1991, 1995) implying rationality in a
line with neo-classical shift in economics, seeking to make public sector more effective and
efficient through applying business practices.


Although the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and other OECD countries were the
earliest adopters of NPM, we see today to some extent controversial trends. On the one
hand Anglo-Saxon community has been intensively promoting NPM reforms through
international organizations such as International Monetary Fund and World Bank to
developing countries with sometimes fruitful examples (see IMF, 2006 for Malaysia case;
Timoshenko & Adhikari, 2010 for Nepal; Kuruppu, 2010 for Sri Lanka and many others). But
on the other hand the reforms within NPM ideology seem to have not been implemented in
its pure sense in some European continental countries, resulting to decoupling between
intended and achieved results and sometimes giving birth to hybrid models (see Luder, 2002
for Germany and Van Helden, 2000 for Netherlands).
Although the Russian context with the developments in Russian society is distinct from
Western and Central Europe, we may witness the similar processes of hybridization and
nationalization of NPM-like reforms. An assiduous endeavor to provide an understanding
of an emergence of new Russian government budgeting system is undertaken in this paper.
As our evidence indicates, it now represents a kind of hybrid model influenced by the ideas
of New Public Management, those ideas stemming from the Russian past, as well as a strong
rhetoric of Russian officials aimed at boosting the image of the Russian state as a modern
sovereign and independent player.
To be developed..


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Appendix 1
The list of documents that have been analyzed in this paper
1. 2000 :
12 1999 .
2. 2005 .
3. 20042006 .
4. :
22.05.2004 249 ( : ... ...; ... ...)
5. 06.03.2005 118
6. 2010-2012 :
7. 11.11.2010 1950-

8. :
a. 07.05.2013 104-

2012 . 2010 .


Evgenii Aleksandrov, University of Nordland

Elena Kuznetsova, Murmansk State Technical University

Success and fail of participatory budgeting: comparative study

of two experiments in Russian local governments


Success and fail of participatory budgeting: comparative study

of two experiments in Russian local governments
This paper is aimed to add new knowledge about participatory budgeting practices in less
developed countries, mainly the case of Russian Federation is investigated. During the period of
2000s Russia has integrated (or has been integrated) to NPM and NPFM trends of public
changes. As a result a huge package of reforms (reform bombing) was initiated by central
authorities affecting various budgeting, accounting and managerial practices all over the country.
Responses for reforms are not clear in Russia and worth to investigate. In this paper we focused
on quite unusual Russian practice internationally known as participatory budgeting (PB) which
emerged in several Russian local governments as response to increasing efficiency and
transparency of public sector. Mainly comparative study was done as a study of two practices
of participatory budgeting experiment in Russian local governments. Based on interviews,
observations, secondary and primary data we try to understand why participatory budgeting
experiment (as innovation) fail in one case and success in another one.
Key words:
Participatory budgeting, reforms, Russia, local government, transparency, communication,

3 bullets (the Craft of Research):

1. Topic: Im studying participatory budgeting practice in Russian local governments in a
period of extensive public sector reforms
2. Question: because I want to find out how such innovations as participatory budgeting emerge
and survive
3. Significance: in order to help my readers understand the nature of innovations in public


New Public Management (NPM) has been vilely discussed by the scholars more than twenty
years (Denhardt, 2004; Gualmini, 2008; Hood, 1991, 1995; paek & Mal, 2010; Weimer,
1994) as important part of developing efficient government practice, mainly such elements as
performance measures, result control, decentralization and market-orientation choice flexibility,
and transparency (Timoshenko & Adhikari, 2009a, 2009b). Last decade some authors claim that
NPM lost ground (Christensen & Lgreid, 2006; Lynn Jr, 1998). At the same time Drechsler
(2005) talked much about Adieu NPM, but still adding that its very much alive and kicking
yet. According to De Vries & Nemec (2013, p. 13) NPM is still used to support process
improvements and it is far from certain which way the public sector is heading in the so-called
post-NPM era.
Nowadays some countries are still implementing NPM related reforms and other countries have
chosen alternative paths as a more or less complex mixture of public management reforms (De
Vries & Nemec, 2013, p. 10).
Lots of studies were focused on NPM related reforms in developed countries. But fewer studies
were devoted to investigating public sector reforms in less developed countries and countries
with transitional economy. Russia is one of such countries to focus as a country with long history
of changes from the Tsar autocracy through Soviet times and transition to market reforms
economy. At the outset of the new century New Public Management trends came (or were let
in) to Russia to modernize and render more efficient to the public sector and give greater costefficiency for governments. This trend gave a starting point for dynamic extensive public sector
reforms in Russia, which affected various aspects of public sector, mainly the budgeting and
accounting practice throughout the country at federal, regional and local levels.
The ideas of reforms were to ensure transparency of the movement of budget funds and increase
efficiency of public funds spending (Tatyana Antipova & Bourmistrov, 2011, p. 1) and to give
more autonomy for local governments. The core changes for public sector as a part of A
budgetary revolution was introduction of management for results and a shift from traditional
cash accounting towards businesslike accrual accounting (Timoshenko, 2008).
Lots of studies were done related to the issues of budgeting reforms in Russia by Russian
authors. Most of these studies were conducted by Russian authors and mainly focused on issues
related to problems of budgeting reforms in Russia (Lavrov, 2005; Ovchinceva, 2009; Serplin,
2005; Starodubrovskaya, 2008) that there are a lot of challenges for local and regional
governments. The same point was continued by foreign authors, mainly the representatives of
Norwegian research school. Antipova and Bourmistrov (2011; 2013) describe Russian accrual
accounting reforms (starting from 2004) and analyze its adoption, mainly using travel of ideas
they found contradiction between the international legitimization of Russia and Russian public
sector accounting traditions. According to their study reforms have never gained a proper
momentum and stack in technicalities and new system of accounting and reports in Russian
government is a kind of hybrid system which combines historical sediments of the past and
only some innovations of today. Konstantin Timoshenko has several own and joint articles
(Adhikari, Timoshenko, & GrsethNesbakk, 2012; Timoshenko, 2006, 2008; Timoshenko &
Adhikari, 2009a, 2009b) focused on investigation of public sector reforms in Russia on central
and local contexts. He found out that implementation of budget reform was better comprehended
in terms of legitimacy rather than in terms of instrumentality for central authorities in Russia.
To sum up, according to existing literature Russian public sector reforms represent top-down
push process (Tatiana Antipova & Bourmistrov, 2013) initiated by central authorities. Gaining

more international legitimization for central authorities than instrumentality (Timoshenko &
Adhikari, 2009a), reforms spread from the top to down levels (regional and local governments)
as modernization process which actually contradict with the Russian public sector tradition
(Tatiana Antipova & Bourmistrov, 2013).
At the same time these studies focus on implementation of reforms in federal and regional level
(and state entities), but a lack of knowledge appears in the field of local (municipal) level,
mainly how reforms were reflected by municipalities.
According to De Vries & Nemec (2013, p. 13) there is no uniform adaptation of public
management reforms and each country makes its own translation combining old and new
traditions. At the same time it worth to mention the importance of local context in studying
financial aspects of changes in a public sector (Timoshenko, 2008). And the significance of local
contexts in reinventing the reform templates should not be underestimated (Czarniawska &
Joerges, 1996).
The municipal level as a local context has even greater specifics than the regional level
(Ovchinceva, 2009): according to Russian legislation local governments are forced to take
responsibility for the development prospects of the municipality and therefore adequately assess
their capabilities and resources; municipality is the closest level of government to the people,
which has ample opportunities for attracting people to the evaluation of its performance; in the
municipal level the majority of public services are provided and the municipality is responsible
for providing them. Thus, closeness to people, performance evidence exactly at the municipal
level indicates the applicability and possibly greater clarity, transparency, effectiveness of public
sector reforms, thereby this reasons stress the importance of studying local governments.
According to legislation Russia as federal state has three levels of management: the federal level,
regional level and local (municipal) level. And there are more than 22 000 local governments in
Russia (Belenchuk, 2013). Municipalities took the existence in 1995 with a new federal law "On
General Principles of Local government in the Russian Federation" August 28, 1995 N 154-FZ
with subsequent amendments of articles. After that in 2009 regulation of municipalities was
introduced as a new federal law "On General Principles of Local government in the Russian
Federation" October 6, 2003 N 131-FZ with subsequent amendments of articles. According to
Bourmistrov (2001) municipalities have not formed their identities yet, but after more than ten
(almost twenty) years of forming and reforming, we claim that municipalities as units in Russia
are institutionalized and as type of local governance municipalities have a great interest for
Thus, Russian local governments represent a huge gap of unknown practices. These practices can
tell a lot about how centrally-driven reforms are perceived and settled down in local settings, for
example budgeting reform adoption, but
Public sector reforms are not only budgeting reform We face a lot of reforms and it
looks like a constant bombing: new statues, degrees come very often to different
departments and you should always be ready for siren
(the Deputy Head of Administration of North-West Municipality)

So how do municipalities respond to this bombing? Do they defend, move to the shelter or
pretend that they give up or really give up? So how do they manage with this constant
bombing? In this paper we dont watch to this battlefield and dont try to understand the rules.
Instead we see this reforms bombing environment as a context. It looks like the constant
bombing process dont give any chances for municipalities to develop their own practices and

just give some time to react for new bomb. But reality shows that own practices are possible.
Its extremely interesting to see that except centrally-driven changes some new local practices
emerge in Russian municipalities, such as participatory budgeting. We dont know how and why
they emerge and mainly how they survive, spread or die.
Thus, the focus of this article is investigation of participatory budgeting experiment in Russian
local governments as a local practice which emerged in reforms bombing environment. In this
paper we try to find out how participatory budgeting emerged and developed in Russia in
order to understand the nature of innovations adoption.
Mainly comparative study was done as a study of the same experiment of participatory
budgeting in two different Russian local governments. Based on interviews, observations,
secondary and primary data we try to understand why participatory budgeting experiment (as
innovation) fail in one case and success in another one.
The remainder of the article is organized as follows: first, theoretical framework of paper will be
introduced as glasses with budget, transparency and ?institutional? lenses; the next section gives
methodological considerations for the article; further the participatory budgeting concept is
introduced as giving a short history, main ideas and development of this concept around the
globe; after that two Russian local governments are examined as successful and failed cases;
the last two sections give discussion and conclusion of the article.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK (open for suggestions)

Its clearly a budget. Its got a lot of numbers in it
(George W. Bush)
Budgeting is a significant mechanism of economic management and planning, it transforms
financial resources into peoples needs and goals as allocating resources (Wildavsky, 1986,
2001). Budgeting has a lot of different but on the same time interconnected functions. Budgeting
can be seen as management control system. At the same time budgeting is translating financial
resources into human purposes. Budget represent a record of the past and at the same time is a
statement about the future. Budgets are plans as they try to determine future states of affairs
through a number of current actions. Moreover, budgets are predictions because they specify
links between words and numbers on the budget documentation and future human behavior
(Wildavsky, 1986). Wildavsky& Swedlow (2001) defines the following functions of budgeting:
control function, efficiency measurement and instrument of management and planning.
Budgeting has a direct link with accounting (Hgheim, Monsen, Olsen, & Olson, 1989). The
budgeting is a basis for the government actions. The results of transactions and actions are
reordered in accounts that are used for the next year budget in turn. Therefore, the fundamental
purpose of governmental accounting use is monitoring of budget execution and the using for the
new budget creation (Timoshenko, 2006; Timoshenko & Adhikari, 2009b).
Despite the long time of existing, the budget system continues to change and be developed
around the whole word. Nowadays the transition from traditional incremental budgeting
discussion (Flscher, 2007; Good, 2011; Jones, Baumgartner, & True, 2002; Weimer, 1994;


Wildavsky, 1964, 2001) to results-based budgeting (Rose, 2003; Schiavo-Campo, 2007; Schick,
2003) took place as response to NPM agenda. Results-based budgeting gives opportunity to link
the results obtained and the budget, giving more transparency and efficiency.
The transparency of the budget presentation in linking expenditures to activities is essential
(Wildavsky, 2001). It was already discussed that governmental budget has broad range of
functions. One of the goals of governmental financial reporting is states accountability. Budget
can function as massage and a mean of communication between government and society,
forming relations based on trust (Wildavsky, 1986). Communication theory (Madigan, 1985)
can be used for understanding this function of budget. Talking about budget as a communication,
transparency issues can be defined (Benito & Bastida, 2009; Kaufmann & Bellver, 2005;
Robinson, 2006).
Using Kasozi-Mulindwa (2013) theoretical framework:

The goal of this paper is to give additional knowledge how such experiments as participatory
budgeting emerge, develop or die in constant changing public sector environment in Russia. As


an instrument for achieving this goal the comparative study of two municipalities will be
presented. Multiple methods of data collection technique are used, mainly documentary
analysis, observations, interviews (semi-structured and in-depth) with representatives of different
departments at municipalities (using existing contacts as to be more successful (Buchanan,
Boddy, & McCalman, 1988)).
First, the documentary analysis of official documents of Russian Federation and previous
publications is done, giving ability to understand Russian reforms bombing context.
Then the local practices were examined:
1) the case of participatory budgeting in north-west municipality was observed as analysis
of online video and text chronology and two interviews were conducted (its planned to
be more): with coordinator of participatory budgeting (50 minutes, tape recording) and
the Deputy Head of Administration, Chairman of the Finance Committee of Sosnoviy
Bor Municipality (35 minutes, without tape recording).
2) the case of participatory budgeting in high north municipality will be introduced.
3) Kasozi-Mulindwa (2013) framework for comperison:

The term participatory budgeting (PB) first appeared in Brazil in 1989 and became a symbol
of democracy and successful model of budget participation around the world (Sintomer,
Herzberg, & RCke, 2008). For more than 20 years history the term has a huge amount of
definitions which generally connected with such slogans as good strategy for poverty
reduction (Kasozi-Mulindwa, 2013), new concept of citizen participation (Miller & Evers,
2002) and just a good budgeting method where all stakeholders can participate in budgeting
process (Shah, 2007).
In general, the participatory budgeting is an approach to budgeting where all not elected citizens
are allowed to participate in public finance allocation (Sintomer et al., 2008) and contribute to
decisionmaking of public budget (Goldfrank, 2007), i. e. participation of citizens in public
finance budget is expected.


Staring from Porto Alegre in Brazil (Pinnington, Lerner, & Schugurensky, 2009) more than 20
years ago, the concept of PB began to spread internationally all over the world and adopted in
different contexts. Moving from hundreds cities in Latin America, participatory budgeting spread
to North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. In Europe PB become a highly dynamic process
where a number of experiments has increased rapidly from 6 to more than 100 in 2000-2005s
(Sintomer et al., 2008). Such countries as England, Germany, Italy, France and Spain initiate
such experiments all over the country (Allegretti & Herzberg, 2004). According to Worldwatch
Institute (2007) there were more than 1200 experiments of PB around the world in 2007.
Developing in space and time the goals and principles of PB practices were different from one
country to another one. According to Sintomer et al. (2008) importation of successful Brasilian
case of Porto Alegre has been highly differentiated process, relying not on one procedure but
rather on a multitude of devices. In developing countries, PB was used as political and social tool
(Kasozi-Mulindwa, 2013). Some countries adopt PB as instruments of legitimacy to get funds,
other countries as NPM trend or strategy for poverty reduction. This points the importance of
local context because each country (and local) context is different. Thus, practices are different
and what was called participatory budgeting in Brazil can be different thing in other countries.
Indeed, many researches prove that, showing the various PB adoptions all over the world (see
foe example Abers, 2001; Allegretti & Herzberg, 2004; Kasozi-Mulindwa, 2013; Sintomer et al.,
2008) . But on the same time there are some legitimate formal and established principles and
processes which in some extent represent the general picture of PB.
A common ways of PB stages can be seen as follows: diagnosis, deliberation, collective
decision-making, execution and monitoring (Pinnington et al., 2009). Or alternatively PB
represents a process that involves formation, approval, implementation, control, monitoring and
evaluation of public recourses (Kasozi-Mulindwa, 2013).
Traveling around the world, PB concept deeply rooted in the principles of democracy, social
justice, citizen control, education, transparency and accountability (Goldfrank, 2007; KasoziMulindwa, 2013; Pinnington et al., 2009; Sintomer et al., 2008). These principles as part of PB
were widely discussed by the scholars testing on different countries settings. Some of them
showed that PB has a success story of these principles (Abers, 2001; Allegretti & Herzberg,
2004; Avritzer, 2006) , but the others gave evidence that PB could be a shield, show and
ritual to gain legitimacy (Kasozi-Mulindwa, 2013) and real PB could fail and give
contradictory results. Folowing this logic, the research community around the world focused on
such directions as preconditions of PB practices, the desiegn, process and outputs of PB in
different countries, mainly focused on municipalities and cities in developed and developing
countries (for example Ebdon, 2002; Ebdon & Franklin, 2004). At the same time comparatative
research was increased last decades giving ability to see different intepretations of PB and
showing the complexity of global panorama.
Talking about link between NPM and PB it worth to say that participation by all stakeholders in
the budgeting process is at the centre of NPM reforms in public sector financial managment
(Kasozi-Mulindwa, 2013). Thus, PB adoption can be a trend or ritual exercice driven by NPM
reforms. According to Kasozi-Mulindwa (2013) PB can be a good symbole of legitimacy both


for NPM and ordinary sitizens, but not always gain real instrumentality such citizens
participation in dicision-making and increasing trancparency & accountability. In most cases in
developing countries adoption of PB is centrally driven and seen as additional window to get
funds from donor countries with NPM reform package. But what happens when country adopts
NPM reforms without need of funds? When centraly driven package of reforms doesnt say
directly about particicipartory budgeting, but PB practices emerge on their own merit?
As its written earlier, last decade Russia has integrated (or has been integrated) to NPM and
NPFM trends of public changes rainforcing a huge package of reforms (reform bombing) by
central authorities. Moving down from central level to regianal outhorities and local
governments reforms got different responses. It looks like there is no time an d funds for local
governments to take some intiative, but the data shows quit interrestng results, mainly PB
emerged in several Russian municipalities with different ways of development. In this paper we
try to understand how PB emergerded in Russian local governments in context of reform
bombing and why it sevive and fail?
Using Kasozi-Mulindwa (2013) framework for comperison, the following section represent the
description of Russian reform bombing context and comparison of two PB experiments in
Russian municipalities.


As it was mentioned before, the period of 2000s was covered by extensive public sector reforms
which was called one of the respondents from municipality as reforms bombing. The key task
was to create maximum opportunities for both federal and municipal authorities to deal with
development of local areas effectively and free from conflict. And of course Russian regional
authorities were also involved into reforming process.
In 2004 the Concept of the Budget Process Reform for 2004-2006 was introduced as A reform
for the people, A real breakthrough in boosting the efficiency, or A budgetary revolution
(Timoshenko & Adhikari, 2009a). In 2006 the Concept of increasing the efficiency of
intergovernmental relations and the quality of management of state and municipal finance in
Russia took place. 2003-2009 the reform of local government took place as Federal Law 131
"On General Principles of Local government in the Russian Federation". In 2006 Concept of the
Administrative Reforms for 2006-2008 was approved. And finally the concept of program-based
budgeting took place in 2013. Thats quite difficult to analyze the whole legislation connected
with public sector reforms, there are hundreds of pages of material (laws, statutes, reports,
degrees) about reform process on official web-site of Russian Ministry of Finance. Several
studies tried to analyze this huge package of budgeting reforms (Tatyana Antipova &
Bourmistrov, 2011; Tatiana Antipova & Bourmistrov, 2013; Timoshenko, 2006, 2008;
Timoshenko & Adhikari, 2009a, 2009b).
Talking about the budget reform in particular, the main features were:


moving to the results-based budgeting at all levels of government. This process of

transition was declared on step by step amendments to the budget process (three years
planning and orientation towards results). At the same time, a number of new norms,
laws, decrees have been issued by the government and municipalities are to follow them,
because these norms and decrees have the force of law;
within the reform boundaries the activity of the Federal Treasury has been changes as it
has become the only state cashier, and the most important task of it is to ensure the safety
of funds of budget managers and accumulate it in the single treasury account;
the status of the Chamber of Accounts as a permanent body of the state financial control
has been consolidated. The Departments of Chamber of Accounts and Federal Treasury
execute the power at regions, districts, and cities;
within the reform boundaries the system of accounting and reporting, treasury and
banking has been changed. In particular, it has been decided to use accounting on an
accrual basis, a new procedure was introduced for treasury execution of the federal
budget. The payment order includes specific details (budget classification codes), which
provided an opportunity for their automated processing. According to the reform
changes, the system of accounting and budget classification should ensure transparency
of public bodies and provide precise information at all levels.
within reform process the inter-budgetary relations have been changed, mainly funds are
allocated not by almost equal parts among all institutions, but in accordance with
programmes supposed by these institutions. By doing so, competition among institutions
is intended to be increased and they have got more initiative as prescribed by two NPM
dimensions: managerialism and marketisation (Schick, 2003).

During all years of municipal reform in the Russian Federation all transformations of municipal
level of government were oriented on creation of conditions for independent realization of
municipal functions and also on for further independent social and economic development of
municipalities. Despite more than decade of reforms, which have led to some positive (what is
quete urgable) developments, unresolved problems still continue. This is a problem of excessive
(and for some municipalities - insufficient) competencies and their underfunding (due to
contrasts with the tax base and economic opportunities of the territories), and many others.
It became clear that one can not apply the same approaches to the formation of the content and
scope of competencies to all municipalities. It is necessary to consider the diversity of local
conditions. Useful in one town, a particular model may not work in another. This is especially
true with the question of the scope of competencies. Some municipalities have sufficient
economic base and can perform not only their own, but also additional competencies delegated
by the regional authorities. Other municipalities cannot perform even the minimum function, for
example, due to small population and remoteness of the area. As president Putin said "The main
goal is to find a balance between the amount of competencies and resources of municipalities,
but this balance should be looked for a long time".
Thus, the problem of sufficient base for financial and economic autonomy is the key problem of
municipal level of government. At the same time a system of evaluation of the effectiveness of
local government is introduced in the Russian Federation. The list of indicators of the efficiency


of local governments of city districts and municipal areas is approved by the Decree of the
Russian President of 28.04.2008 No. 607 "About an assessment of efficiency of local
governments of city districts and municipal areas". The main attention is paid to indicators which
generally depend on activity of local authorities and characterize quality of life of the population,
extent of introduction of new methods and the principles of management. Therefore even in
rather difficult conditions municipalities are compelled to introduce the new principles of
management and interaction with the population.
Now the special attention is paid to openness and transparency of activity of municipalities, and
also creation of effective communications with inhabitants. Carrying out reforms of municipal
management, the federal authorities demand increase of these parameters and introduction of the
participatory budgeting is the answer to these requirements. The system of citizen participation is
declared in many municipalities, but the quality of introduction of this system and the final result
differ strongly. Some municipalities seek to reach real participation of the population in
distribution of the budgetary resources, it is enough to another to report about increase of
transparency of the budget and improvement of communications with the population.
Summing up, municipal reform in Russia, including the budget reform, became a respond to the
changing world trends (under NPM umbrella) and has been represented by huge package of
legislation documents, which were developed on the top and began to penetrate to the regional
and local settings as bombs which should hit the target. Watching to this reforms bombing
as a context and trying to understand the content of this bombing, we investigate several
municipalities practices of PB experiment. The emergence of PB experiments in several Russian
municipalities may be indirectly connected (should be proved) with federal law #8 adoption as
one of the bomb which was thrown by Russian central authorities in 2009 to ensure
transparency and openness of the budget and the budget process to the public (Annual Budget
Message of the President of the Russian Federation to Federal Assembly on the 28th of June,
2012). In the year 2014 the President declared: Russia now is among the top ten countries
according to the International Budget Partnership index of budget transparency... Information
published in the public domain enables citizens to get an idea about the scope of budget spending
and realize the effectiveness of costs and intended use of funds.


Municipality Sosnoviy Bor
Short description of municipality:

Municipality Murmansk
Short description of municipality:

Sosnoviy Bor is a town with population of 68 thousands

people. Location is North-West Russia (Leningrad
region). Past, present and future of Sosnovy Bor
inextricably linked to the Leningrad Nuclear Power
Plant-branch "Rosenergoatom". More than 500 large,
medium and small organizations operate in Sosnoviy
Bor. These are companies of different directions and
forms of ownership, including the use of high
technology. Major industries are manufacturing,
construction, science, transport and communications.
Sosnoviy Bor has 29 institutions of the education. There
are 120 different kinds of sports facilities. About 10,000

Murmansk is a city with population of 300 thousand

people. It is the world's largest city located beyond
Arctic Circle. Murmansk is the largest port on the
shores of the Arctic Ocean and the only port to remain
ice-free all year round. The Arctic seaway stretching
along the northern and eastern coast of Russia up to the
Pacific Ocean takes its start from the port of Murmansk.
As Murmansk is a maritime town, all large enterprises
are connected with the sea. Major industries are: fishery
and fish processing, sea transport, ship repair, sea, rail
and automobile transportation, metal working, the food
industry, sea geology. Murmansk has 227 institutions of


residents are engaged in sports clubs (www.sbor.ru).

the education. There are 304 different kinds of sports


PB roots:

PB roots:

The project didnt appear in municipality originally, but

was initiated by initiative research group of European
University in St.-Petersburg jointly with Kudrins Fund
in 2013. The main focus of the project is participatory
budgeting. The research group of 3 people made
presentation of the project for municipal administration
and asked to arrange PB experiment in municipality.
The research group used Brazilian model of PB as
frame for experiment. The main source of data was
literature from internet in English. PB goal is
development of access to budgetary financial data,
federal, state, local, etc. and learning how to use these
data, citizens become familiar with how the process
of the formation and execution of the budget is going

The 3D Budget project was initiated by the head of

municipality Alexey Veller. He was supported by the
head of administration of Murmansk Andrey Sysoyev
and the Council of deputies.
Idea of the project: the residents of Murmansk don't
show any activity in public hearings, therefore it is
necessary to find such form of work with the population
which allows considering opinion of citizens at the
discussion of distribution of the budgetary funds.

Goal for European University: test whether PB is

applicable in Russian local governments.

The PB experiment was called 3D Budget. The name

comes from the three Russian words beginning with the
letter D (the direct translation - let's divide money).

The PB experiment was called I plan Budget

The source of finance: minipality funds
The source of finance: minipality funds 20 mlns roubles
from the 1 535 billions budget (1,3 % of total municipal
Goal of the experiment: Our task now is not to reform
the budget process, not to reform governments, our task
is to add a channel of communication between officials
and citizens, which would effectively solve the
problems that are pushed participants in our project.
Preconditions: 1) balanced budget 2) the desire of local
authorities to co-operate 3) sufficient activity of the
population 4) and the fact that major infrastructure
problems are solved. Municipality should be without
serious problems that may call into question the very
existence of the municipality. Of course, there are own
problems, but at the same time, the municipality is rich
enough to afford some of the budget for the distribution
of the citizens. This municipality has no such problems
as fixing hot-water pipes... and its developed enough to
maintain good living conditions

Goal of the experiment: This project aims to bring to

the budget process hundreds and thousands of people. In
addition, the outcome of the project should be to
identify the most significant social problems from the
standpoint of Murmansk citizens. All this contributes to
a socially-oriented budget.

First Expectation: Many organizers of the project had

doubts, even scepticism.

First Expectation: we were not expecting anything

really specific and the project could finish at any stage.

PB design and mechanisms for participation:

PB design and mechanisms for participation:

citizens form special commission of 15 people.

Credentials of Commission are extremely limited.
Commission members must choose a theme for budget
application for 2014, to form this application and hold it
through the appropriate committee of administration
and budget committee. Application must be included to
the total municipal budget for 2014 and this budget
should be accepted by deputies. The commission deals
with the distribution of funds, it operates a couple of
months and going to a couple of times a week for the
exchange of information for dealing with officials. The
main task is to agree on the projects to be realizable,

The first stage (September 2013): A questionnaire is

designed for the citizens. It can be filled in on paper or
on the Internet. The questionnaire consists of two parts.
First of all citizens are asked what expenses they
consider priorities for the city of Murmansk in 2014.
Secondly people are asked about whether they support
the social projects of administration of Murmansk.
The second stage (4th of November 2014): Sawing the
budget in the central square of the city. In Russia it is a
non-working day. A lot of people come with their
families to the central square of the city. This time they
can find there a beam that symbolizes budget. The beam


contain certain funds. After that, the work begins with

the working group and the implementation of selected
initiatives begins. They are implemented 3-4 months.

is divided into 9 sectors (the same as in the

questionnaire). 12 500 small holes are made in the beam
and 12 500 sticks are prepared for voting. Everyone can
get one stick and put it in a hole in the selected sector. A
few hours later the beam looks like a big hedgehog. It is
time to saw a beam on 9 pieces and see what pieces are
Finally part of the budget is to be formed in accordance
with the wishes of the citizens.

Government environment for PB:

Government environment for PB:

Several official documents from administration

regarding PB experiment
Funds for budget allocation are 20 mln. rubles for 2014
FZ 8 2009 "On providing access to information about
the activities of state bodies and local self-government"

Several official documents from administration

regarding PB experiment.
Funds for budget allocation are about one billion rubles
for 2014.

PB process:

PB process:

1) 1st of March 2013 - PR-company took place
(organised by sity administration) news about the
project in the internet, TV and newspapers.
2) Registration of potential participant
3) 12 April 2013 - Presentation of the PB 30 minutes:
what is participatory budgeting; how it will be; the
4) 13 April 2013 - 30 minutes : 79 candidates; 15
people are selected; 15 people reserve. 15 citizens,
randomly selected by lottery, will be included in a
special commission and will take part in the formation
of budget applications for the total sum 20 mln. rubles
for 2014. Commission members must choose a theme
for budget application for 2014, to form this application
and hold it through the appropriate committee of
administration and budget committee. Application must
be included to the total municipal budget for 2014 and
this budget should be accepted by deputies.
5) 17 April 2013 1st meeting of the Commission - 1
hour in the evening: introduction of moderator;
introduction of participants, observers and rules;
presentations of proposals for municipal funds
6) 19 April 2013 2nd meeting of the Commission:1
hour in the evening: lecture How urban space is
7) 24 April 2013 3rd meeting of the Commission: 1,5
hour in the evening: reviewing proposals, questions and
answers; voting for proposals; sports block applications
got the most votes; mainly proposals for creation and
renovation of sports fields, creation of a bike route and
cycling infrastructure in the city.


28 April 2013 4th meeting of the Commission.
1,5 hour meeting with representatives of administration:
Chairman of the Finance Committee; Deputy Chief of
the Capital Construction Departments; Head of external
improvements and road infrastructure; Reviewing the
proposals and giving the comments; Question and
answers; Everything is not so simple. Lots of thing
should be discussed. You dont know how its difficult
to manage!


6 May 2013 5th meeting of the Commission 1,5 hour meeting: creation of the working group (3
persons from commission); the working group is
responsible for communication with administration;
discussion of the results of meeting with representatives
of administration; discussions of proposals and creation
of detailed application; debates!
8 May 2013 6th meeting of the Commission 1,5 hour lecture about budget process: theory and
practices, tendencies and trends in municipalities.
17 May 2013 7th and the last meeting of the
Commission - 1,5 hour meeting: new sport facility will
be created as the total proposal of the commission; the
working group is responsible for realization of this
proposal trough all circles of the agreement; totally the
proposal have to become an expenditure item in the
budget for 2014, in 2014 the working group have to
track the implementation of this budget item;
At the end of the meetings of the budget
committee supported the authors of proposals for sports
fields and landscaping included in the working group in
the administration, which was engaged in the practical
implementation of these projects. Both projects were
accompanied by Department of improvements and road
facilities and the Department of Capital Construction.
Work on proposals lasted from June to November of
2013. The aim of this work - making proposals of the
Commission in the full budget request. It is important to
emphasize that the work was carried out jointly by the
administration and members of the commission. In
separate meetings held during these few months, the
working group has tried to maximize the number of
wishes come from the members of the commission and
add them to the budget proposals 2014.

18 June 2013 1st meeting of the working
group. 1,5 hour meeting: 3 persons of the working
group + Deputy Head of Administration in Social
Affairs + Chairman of Finance Committee +Deputy
Governor; Discussion of application; Some suggestions
and corrections.
All calculations, technical documentation and
other documents are made by the city administration.
Projects are included in the budget lines of the relevant
The idea is to get people involved into the
process. This is followed by the standard scheme, where
the municipality allocates funds and ideas of working
group are considered along with the other projects
during public hearings about the budget.
While members of the working group engaged
in organizational issues, citizens collected signatures
against the construction sport facility in their backyard;
As a result changing place and project documentation;
The main risk is approval of ideas by
Municipal Deputies.
20 November 2013 hearings about the budget
As a result, 2 budget proposals of the
commission members were included in the budget for


2014, subsequently approved by the Municipal Council

for the total sum 1,079 million rubles (0,09%) for 2014
and 19 million rubles for 2015.
Two purchase procedures for 1,079 million
2014 construction of sport park + bicycle
Mornitoring and Evaluation
Sity administration andworking group

Outcomes of PB:

Outcomes of PB:

Influence budget decisions citizens has limited

influence (only 1,5% of the budget). Public officials
make decisions Partial Broad Participation
(Moynihan, 2003)

Influence budget decisions (?) - the result is confirmed

only by the statements of the administration of
Murmansk in mass media.

Transparency and accountability - Provide access

easily, harder to get people interested . What currently
exists, if you see a budget made-up by the CSC codes ,
it is incomprehensible to most deputies and it dealt only
those officials who are responsible for it and may be a
couple of deputies who know something about the
budget process ... you need to give people the
opportunity to work with budgets. People have a lot of
ideas, but they do not know what to do with them, they
come to administration, and they say that your ideas are
unrealizable, and they go without anything.
The social web network was created by citizens. There
are a lot of discussions about municipal budget in this
Education, i.e. enhance capacities of citizens citizens
who involved to the process began to understand how
budget process goes and how actions and decisions take
Administration gets two bonuses. Firstly, a new form
of working with people dedicated budget, because now
there is budget hearings they held in each municipality.
There come three men brawl at the meetings, and leave
with nothing. And here is a brand new form of
discussion on the budget. Second, there are very limited
resource for municipal deputies in the cities, i.e. mayors
expect that these programs will involve such people that
can later be manipulated as a municipal deputy and it
will be much easier to communicate with them than it is
Just municipality understands that communication with
citizens is weak now, people do not hear each other and
sources of new ideas are not enough.
The project affects everyone - citizens, administration,
deputies, the relations between the people and the
The administration of the project affected by the fact
that they are not used to work in such format (from
comfort zones to the stretch ones?). There are a lot of
ideas (projects) from the people. And much work should


be done to evaluate project - the working group is

created, which includes representatives of the relevant
departments of the committees, which can give
comments on each and applications. Administration
officers are not used to work like that. When we attend
meetings, we see how hard they talk with each other.
These working groups contribute to the improvement
of contacts within the administration itself. Especially
when the project involves several departments of the
It turns out that there is reduced power distance. Yes,
and very strong. I do not know of any other situation
when the head of municipality can seat at the same table
with the citizens together and watch over the map and
decide where best to implement a particular project .
This is a great step forward.
People wean o to see their enemies in officials,
because when they work together on something, they
change style of conversation and ideas about the work.
People begin to offer constructive ideas.
Legitimacy for central authorities as a good example of
communication between citizens and administration.

Actors and roles:

Actors and roles:

City administration facilitator, consultant and

technical professionals
University coordinator, consultant, facilitator
Municipal council guardians
Citizens - spenders
Working group representatives of spenders
Newspapers PR company
Social network communication channel

City administration
Council of deputies
Citizens (about 25 000)
Public council of the city
Mass media

Development of experiment:

Development of experiment:

We would like that people can dispose of large sums,

that they have experience in similar projects and know
what projects are feasible, which can be supported.
They should focus on what is happening now in the
budget programs. Now this is a contest of ideas and
work on implementation. The main difference - that we
involve people in the process.
Several municipalities try to adopt the same practice.

Experiment isn't planned to repeat. The attention

switched over to the project of the Internet portal of the
budgetary system of Murmansk region "The budget for




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a case study in the Norwegian health sector

Working paper
1 Draft
by Per Christian Ahlgren

Trondheim Business School

E: per.c.ahlgren@hist.no

Preliminary Abstract
Drawing on a field study of the inter-organizational relationship between a hospital and a municipality this
paper analyzes how an accounting innovation, in the shape of a financial incentive arrangement, became
involved with promoting a governmental program involving a redirection in coordination of health care service
provision across organizational boundaries. Drawing on actor-network theory the paper demonstrates how
various inscriptions are built and configured in efforts to frame organizational action. Tracing the connections
between various inscriptions and processes of translation the paper shows that accounting becomes important
in making patient flows calculable and that the creation of calculability is a powerful means for promoting a
governmental program of action and reconfiguring organizational behavior. The paper contributes by
highlighting the role of inscriptions in reconfiguring accountabilities and the importance of investigating the
interrelatedness of inscriptions when attempting to understand the performative role of accounting. It is
argued that to understand how accounting is implied in the regulatory and managerial game, accounting
innovations [inscriptions] need to be investigated as entangled in a larger nexus of efforts to promote a certain
program of action.
Originally submitted abstract:
This paper investigates the role of accounting inscriptions in the cross-boundary relationship between separate, but inter-related, public
sector organizations. The paper departs from the recent reforms in public sector health-care service provision in Norway, a national
initiative involving a redirection in horizontal coordination within and across organizational boundaries. Providing a unique empirical
account of how inscriptions travel through organizations the paper aims at contributing to the understanding of how accounting numbers
are used and function in the interplay of actors and to the understanding of how inscriptions are negotiated (translated) and mobilized in
processes of changing interactivity. To achieve this we draw on actor-network theory in the analysis of fieldwork from an in-depth case
study of the relationship between two separated health authorities over a one-year period. Following ongoing processes of negotiation and
translation the story shows that accounting numbers become focal in managerial and operative discourse, and come to be important
mediators for practice both internally and between interactive parties.

Key words: inscriptions, mediators, actor-network theory, translation, framing, quantification.


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The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of inscriptions in framing cross boundary health care
service provision. Drawing on a field study of the relationship between a hospital and a municipality
jointly responsible for providing health care services to a large regional public, the paper analyzes
how accounting inscriptions got involved with promoting a new way of coordinating action across
organizational entities []
In 2008 the Norwegian government introduced The coordination reform (HOD 2008a). The reform
is arguably one of the most fundamental changes in Norwegian health policy during the last decades.
The reform addresses societal challenges related to both a patient-care perspective and to
economical perspectives. The reform highlights three major challenges to the Norwegian health care
system. Firstly patients needs for coordinated services are not sufficiently answered and services are
fragmented. Secondly, service provision is characterized by shortcomings in efforts to limit and
prevent illness. Finally, the demographical (and epidemiological) development and changes in
disease patterns presents challenges that will threaten the societys economical sustainability. The
Norwegian health care system is divided, largely, into two levels of service provision; specialist health
care services provided through stately regional health enterprises and hospitals, and generalized (or
primary) health care provided by the municipal sector. The recent reform is built on the assumption
that both from a medical and economic perspective better coordination between health authorities
should be (one of) the most important areas of development. Coordination, as it is defined by the
Norwegian department of health care, is then [] a notion describing the health and social care
services ability to share tasks among them in order to reach a common, agreed goal, and the ability
to conduct the tasks in a coordinated and rational manner (HOD 2008a, p. 13). The reform is
presented under the vision of proper treatment at the right place at the right time (HOD 2008b,
p. 1). The main approaches prescribed in the reform is related to developing a clearer patient role,
establishing a new role for the municipalities in the provision of health and social care, developing
the specialist health care services in order for them to make greater use of their specialized
capabilities, facilitate clearer prioritization of holistic approaches to episodic patient care1 and the
establishment of economic incentives. In other words, a complex array of goals, strategic intents and
actions. These approaches are interrelated and multifaceted, the perhaps most intriguing aspect of
this is however the prescribed general shift in task division and the accompanying/ attempts at
promoting this through the establishment of various financial incentive arrangements.
//Payment for dischargeable patients the incentive arrangement//

Episodic patient care pasientforlp (patient careers).


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The coordination reform, as most larger governmental reform programs, entails the introduction of
multiple financial incentives aimed at promoting the desired outcomes of reorganization. The
perhaps most visible and arguably most influential change introduced through the coordination
reform is that of obligatory payment for dischargeable patients in specialist health care, which will
hereafter be termed PDP, or Payment for Dischargeable Patients. The arrangement involves a
restructuration of block-funding to the layers of the health sector, where funding is moved from the
specialist health care to the municipal sector. 600 million NOK is transferred from stately health
enterprises to municipalities. The PDP, as an incentive arrangement, is built upon the introduction of
a price mechanism where municipalities are obligated to finance hospital care for dischargeable
patients. []
(In this early version of the paper the PDP as an incentive arrangement is described in larger detail in the empirical section
of the paper. The current introduction of the PDP in the paragraph above will be extended and reworked to incorporate a
good illustration of the arrangement as an accounting innovation in the introduction to the paper. The paragraph above is
included in this draft just to give the reader a short statement on what is being discussed. A further introduction can be
found later in this version; pp. 15-16.)

The concept of inscriptions includes many things (Robson 1992) and Latour (1999b, p. 306) defines
this as any type of materialized sign that is constructed through translations, it could include a single
sign, an archive, a document or a note on a piece of paper. Put generally the term inscription denotes
a materialized trace of a translation. These traces are the ones this paper is concerned with
accounting for, as a reconstruction of a series of translations. According to Latour (1996b)
inscriptions are, most commonly, two-dimensional, superimposable and combinable. Hence he also
terms them immutable mobiles as they are always mobile, and whilst allowing new translations
and articulations they keep some relations intact. Inscriptions become important as conversions of
local events into mobile entities with the potential ability to create, capture, safehouse and contest
claims about other places and times (Preston 2006 in Qu & Cooper 2011, p. 345). In this sense these
materializations are potentially important in stabilizing, or destabilizing, organizational practices.
Inscription devices have the potential to enroll users and to make ideas and actions happen,
(Quattrone 2009; Qu & Cooper 2011). Qu & Copper (2011) stress that whilst acknowledging the
potential importance of inscriptions in developing accounting technologies, it is evidently not only
about inscriptions. Inscriptions do however play a significant role in selling these technologies. This
perspective is also fundamental to this paper. Whilst central inscriptions that introduce the
technology, in this case the PDP, are important they are only so in terms of their relatedness to other
((also non-numerical)) inscriptions and the way in which they are used by various


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((participants/groups of participants)) actors. Thus concern is primarily directed at the role of

inscriptions as entities in the wider organizational assemblages, and as investments promoting a
certain program of action.
We would seldom find inscriptions that are disconnected from other inscriptions, other non-human
or human actors, which would incase make them irrelevant we would not be able to trace them
without their associations (ref). The aim of this approach is to trace the association between various
inscriptions and their associations through the actions of actors. Latour (1999b) focuses on the role
of inscriptions, as immutable mobiles, in creating references. When inscriptions are [] cleverly
aligned they create the circulating reference (Latour 1999b, p. 307). The idea of aligning inscriptions
with other, and further inscriptions, as well as associating these with other allies, non-human and
human, is illustrated by Latour (1991) in his example of European hotel keys. To persuade hotel
guests to leave their key when leaving the hotel the hotels developed inscriptions in the form of
posters and notes informing the customers to leave their keys at the desk. These efforts were not
sufficient to persuade customers to do so. To strengthen the reference they added further
inscriptions in addition to adding metal weights to the keychain. The key was translated into an
annoyingly heavy object the guests could leave at the desk to avoid having to drag around, a
transformation from a (moral) obligation to something the guests were happy to do. This sort of
chain of translation, or creation of circulating reference, is that which this paper seeks to reconstruct.
//Existing literature and contribution//
The paper is closely linked to the literature that investigates the role of inscriptions in the making of
general and localized accounting technologies (Ezzamel et. al 2004; Preston 2006; Robson 1992; Qu
& Cooper 2011). The paper contributes to this literature by focusing on the interconnectedness of
numerical inscriptions and other non-quantified inscriptions as a nexus of materialized traces
reconstructed from various actors attempts at promoting a certain way of conduct. Many have
highlighted the importance of tracing the inscription building process (e.g. Robson 1992, Briers &
Chua 2001, Qu & Cooper 2009) and the need to focus on how these in their various forms are
mobilized, how they are produced and distributed and how they stand up to the tests of the
elements. Such is also the sentiment of this paper, it does however place greater emphasis on the
consecutive works of translation following an implementation of an accounting innovation aimed at
fortifying its connected program of action. As Qu & Cooper (2011) who stress that the inscription
building process is one of continuous character this paper seeks to unravel an ongoing process in
which yet newer inscriptions are construed to replace the older or to reconfigure their connections
and use. By focusing on the connection of accounting inscriptions to other non-numerical


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inscriptions, to an even greater extent, the paper seeks to contribute to the understanding of how
accounting becomes entangled in organizational practice and becomes crucial to instill a new way of
performing services.
//Structure// - the paper is organized as follows.
The paper is organized as follows. The succeeding section elaborates on and discusses the
importance of inscriptions in the establishment of organizational practice. The third section of the
paper outlines the research process and the empirical field work. The fourth section of the paper
introduces, in greater detail the PDP arrangement and the various actors involved in a theorized
account of the interrelatedness of various inscriptions and the framing process. The paper is
concluded by emphasizing the role of inscriptions as important mediators of organizational action
and the importance of investigating the interrelatedness of various inscriptions in order to
understand how accounting numbers become entangled in practice. []
This needs to be written once it becomes clear how the introduction should incorporate the ideas
of centers of calculation and the creation of calculable spaces, including the notion of calculability
and calculative agency.


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Theoretical points of departure

//Introduction to theory inscriptions again//
Inscriptions, in the form of for instance paperwork, charts or pictures have been argued to hold
several rhetorical advantages as they are considered as mobile, immutable and re-combinable (Chua
1995). Robson (1992) defines inscriptions as material translations of the setting that is to be enacted,
at such they have the ability to transcend between the context of action and actors remote to that
context. Defining inscriptions largely from their ability to enable action at a distance, or rather
mediate problems of distance, Robson (1992, pp. 692) builds on Latour (1987) to elaborate on three
mutually related qualities of inscriptions; mobility, stability and combinability. Mobility refers to the
inscriptions ability to move, more specifically to move from the actor to the setting, and back. The
written word and the use of numbers even more so, considered as easily mobilized and easily
dominated, thus illustrates the mobility of inscriptions as materialized translations. Stability refers to
the degree to which the form of the inscription is stable and the degree to which it is recognizable to
its users. Inscriptions should then be able to withstand deterioration and corruption. The importance
of stability, or durability, is elegantly illustrated by John Law (1986) in his paper on the methods of
long distance control, see also Latour (1987, pp. 215-220). The third quality, combinability, refers to
the inscriptions quality in terms of the actors ability to accumulate, aggregate and combine them. It
considers the extent to which they can take the inscriptions to create new orders, new relationships
or rather associations (Robson 1992).
//Mediators or intermediaries//
So how about these inscriptions? We have learnt they are the materialization of translations, and
they can be said to have certain qualities. But what are they really? The central concern of this paper
is the role of inscriptions as mediators. Mediators are actors with the capacity to translate what
they transport, to redefine it, redeploy it and also betray it (Latour 1993, pp. 81). In short they
change the meaning or elements they are supposed to convey (Latour 2005). Latour, and many more
to follow, separates the notions of mediator and intermediary. Intermediaries, as opposed to
mediators, transport meaning (or force) without transformation, in practice they are black-boxes.
What you put in is what you get out, input equals output. In contrast mediators cannot be fully
defined by their input or output (Latour 1999b; 1993; 2005). Inscriptions, in the form of documents
as for instance laws, regulations or calculations, are often seen as simple intermediaries. Latour uses
the example of a properly functioning computer as a good prospective intermediary, but highlights
how if it breaks down it becomes a horrendously complex mediator. As we will see even the
simplest of document, due to its associations to other entities, may lead to uncertain outcomes. No


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matter how apparently simple a mediator might look, it may become complex; it may lead in multiple
directions which will modify all the contradictory accounts attributed to its role (Latour 2005, pp.
39). The account that follows in this paper shows that the faithful intermediary is a rare thing, and
that the stabilization of a practice a way of conduct requires investment in, or rather mobilization
of, further mediators (Latour 2005, Christensen & Skrbk 2010).
Framing and overflowing
In later years several scholars have established that accounting inscriptions (Kirk and Mouritsen
1996, Christensen and Skrbk 2010) and particularly accounting numbers, or quantification in
general (Vollmer 2007) aid in accommodating (social) interaction between humans in various ways.
The investigation of the role of these inscription devices play have drawn on the theorization
provided by Erving Goffman (1974) and his Frame analysis and the later contributions of actor
network theory scholars. Goffmans (1974, pp. 10-11) claim was that social situations are subject to
ordering by frames that establish sense, or meaning, of what is going on and aids to regulate the
actions taken by participants. The contribution made by ANT scholars has been to expand this by
including non-humans into the social interaction (e.g. Callon and Latour 1981, Callon 1986; 1998,
Latour 1987; 1993; 2005). The notion of framing is here expanded by the acknowledgement that
[] almost all our interactions with other people are mediated through objects of one kind or
another (Law 1992, pp. 381-81). Goffman did in fact suggest himself that the production of
frameworks is a co-production of interdependencies amongst humans as well as objects and things
(Callon 1998). The concern of this paper is mainly related to the role of inscriptions (in framing) as
mediators and as objects (or matter) that mediate (inter)action and create interdependencies and as
such it draws heavily on the contributions of ANT.
This concept of framing is easily applied to the interactions investigated in this paper, we could
think of it as an extension of economic transactions or contract negotiations, which are the examples
employed by Callon (1998, pp. 250). Callon suggests it could be seen as a game of chess where there
cannot be any effective agreement without the players sitting down at the chairs opposite side of the
chessboard and adhering to the rules of the game. Extending this analogy to inter-organizational
relationships is arguably not that far a stretch, this however is a story where most of the frame needs
to be created and the rules are less defined and the investments of creating the frame has yet to be
made. Drawing on the concept of framing we are thus looking for the role of inscriptions, as the
materialized signs of translation work, or as investments, in the coproduction of a frame of action.


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Near complete framing of action requires substantial investments, despite even substantial
investment framing attempts are highly unlikely to be successful (Christensen and Skrbk 2007,
Callon 1998). Callon attempts to deal with issues of identifying, measuring and containing overflows.
Overflows are analogous to the economical concept of externalities, or rather the sociological
revision of it (Christensen & Skrbk 2007). Overflows can then be defined as all negative, or
positive, externalities that are produced in the processes of framing. These overflows are not viewed
as accidental; they are rather the norm (Callon 1998, Christensen and Skrbk 2007). Callon (1998,
pp. 252) further states that; [] framing when present at all is a rare and expensive outcome; in
short it is very costly to set up. He goes on to claim that framing should be regarded as something
that does not happen on its own, and that overflows are not accidents which require repair.
Overflows should be treated as the rule, whilst framing is a fragile artificial result based upon
substantial investment. This is corresponding to the idea presented in this paper. The concepts of
framing and overflowing are used to trace the investments in inscriptions/mediators, or framing
devices, that aid in attempts to produce a sense of order, albeit temporal and artificial. In our case
we will recognize that substantial investment in works of framing (works of translation) is conducted,
but we will also see that this is no guarantee that efforts to frame the action taken will provide the
desired outputs.
Centers of calculation and calculative agency
Framing is then, in simple terms, defined as processes of establishing the rules of the game, a frame
of action. The main concern here is the role of inscriptions as framing devices and the role of
(accounting) inscriptions in creating a frame of action. The creation of a frame involves the
combination of a series of investments and a series of interlinked inscriptions. Rose and Miller 1992
use the term inscription to denote traces of government work to transform phenomena into
information, as material conditions which enable thought to work upon an object (Rose and Miller
1992, p. 185). The creation of this information is a way of acting, in the same instance it becomes a
basis of further action. The production of inscriptions enables the establishment of what can be
termed centers of calculation. Latour (1999 PH, p. 304) defines this as any site where inscriptions
are combined and make possible a type of calculation. Central to the notion is the inter-relatedness
of inscriptions, and how inscriptions are made up and combined to create calculability. The creation
of calculability, according to Vollmer et al. (2009, p. 623), can be described as the (collaborative)
processes which make possible the assignment of numbers (such as prices) to entities [] an
assignment which in its turn, endows these entities with relative stability and makes possible their
circulation through society.


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Inscriptions, such as the accounting numbers implied in this case study, are as framing devices
perceived to be essential in the creation of rules of action. The potential performativity of artefacts
(inscriptions), such as the PDP, implies that they are endowed with calculative agency. Calculative
agency is characterized by (I) framing, (II) disentanglement and (III) performativity (Barry and Slater
2002, Callon 2004, Vollmer et al. 2009). Framing, as the concept developed by Callon (1998), are the
distinctions used by participants to define what is calculable and not (Vollmer et al. 2009).
Disentanglement is the process of establishing boundaries about what is relevant and not in
calculation, unraveling and sorting out the calculable pieces of reality. Performativity here
designates the use of these technologies in enacting (market) transactions. Framing and
disentanglement is thus the (collaborative) efforts into defining what should be calculated, and
further establishing how to calculate. Performativity is thus about the actual use, or mobilization, of
the technologies or artefacts in practice. As Vollmer et al. (2009) indicate framing and
disentanglement can thus be seen as preconditions for performativity, that is for acting upon what
has been made calculable.
A center of calculation, as a combination of inscriptions (enabling calculation), evolves only through
its relatedness and associations to other entities in a complex of technologies, agents and agencies
(Rose and Miller 1992). Thus a center of calculation is a fragment of a larger sociotechnical
arrangement, or agencement. The term agencement denotes a combination of humans and nonhumans entangled in a dynamic configuration emphasizing the distributed character of action and
the symmetry (non-separability) of humans and non-human (Callon 2004, p. 121). Agencement
resembles closely the notion of assemblages (as often preferred by Latour) and generally illustrates
the idea of heterogeneous entities that have been carefully adjusted to each other (Callon 2006, p.
13). The notion is however less functionalistic, more fragile and temporal, and emphasizes
heterogeneous arrangements with the capacity of acting in different ways depending on their
configuration (Callon 2006, p.13). The co-production of centers of calculation, or calculability per se,
can thus be described as integral to the configuration of (the) agencements. An ethnography of
organizational practice, or inter-organizational practice as in this case, can be seen as an effort to
trace the associations of the agencement(s) of organizational actors, both human and non-human.
The closer examination of the role of inscriptions in framing the larger cross-boundary interaction is
an investigation of the work of constructing and combining inscriptions (as/i.e. technologies and
artefacts) as efforts (or investments) to reconfigure agencements. When attempting to understand,
more deeply, the role of accounting innovations or inscriptions, such as the PDP, there is a need to
look (more) closely at how processes of making things calculable helps frame and thus reconfigure
the larger organizational assemblages.


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The inscriptions that are meticulously studied in this paper can therefore be seen as a chain of
interwoven investments or innovations. These innovations represents the materializations of groups
of participants efforts into translating their intentions into devices that aid in framing organizational
activity. The innovations are thus co-produced, and are in their own sense actively involved in
shaping, that is mediating, organizational action. They are performative. The (allied) innovator(s),
which include governmental institutions as well as administrative levels of both organizations, seeks
to enroll groups of participants and technologies (agencements) into a particular program of action
(Latour 1991). This is the track, or path, that the managers of health care services wishes that the
organizations members will follow. This much resembles their idea of an intended agencement,
assembled accordingly to their program of action, a particular configuration of distributed action.
Mind that this should be considered a mere utopia. To predict this path the innovators make a series
of successive statements, the starting point can be considered the initial problematization of health
care services and their presentation of the intention of the coordination reform. This first
statement of intent, or any singular statement, and the force with which it is put forward is never in
isolation enough to predict a path of successive action. This is one of Latours fundamental principles
of SST studies, this path depends on what successive listeners do with the statement (Latour 1991,
p. 104). The strength of the statement depends on the character of the written sign, the inscription,
and on how listeners act upon it; [] a thousand listeners will follow a thousand different paths
after reading the order (Latour 1991, p 104). The managers then have two choices of action in order
to advance their program of action; incorporation or excorporation. Incorporation involves making
sure all involved understands their statement and know what to do. The latter is a matter of loading
the statement of intent in a sense that generates the compliance of many to follow their program of
action (Latour 1991). This is the very concern of this paper. Inscriptions, the accounting innovations
and other inscriptions, can be seen as loads attached to the initial intent. This intent being the new
(particular) way of acting across organizational boundaries in the provision of care services. Each
load a further effort in framing action. The number of loads that need to be attached depends upon
the actions of the ones to be enrolled, that is the larger agencement. The adversaries, the ones the
innovators seek to enroll, are commonly termed anti-programs. As the literature tells us the numbers
of loads needed are potentially numerous, and presumably hardly likely to be (totally) successful.
The framing of organizational activity is then dependent upon an (incessant) series of investments in
inscriptions. These loads need to be carefully constructed and aligned in order to produce something
resembling a coherent frame of action. In the following it is suggested that to investigate the role of
these devices in shaping action and their inter-relatedness we should look for their ability to create
circulatory reference. An accounting innovation, such as the PDP, constructed (around an incentive


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arrangement) can be seen as a nexus of inter-related inscriptions of various kinds supporting,

extending, fortifying and even betraying each other. These inscriptions are constructed and
(attemptedly) combined to create a calculable space that aid in the reconfiguration of the assembly
of organizational actors and actants.
//Calculable spaces//
Calculable spaces is not incorporated in the text. There is a need to FOCUS in on ACTION AT A
DISTANCE, both in the introduction and to create a transition from the definition of CENTERS OF
CALCULATION to that of CALCULABLE SPACES through the notion of long distance control.
The acts of making things calculable through the framing, disentanglement and performing of calculations can thus, through the creation of calculable spaces


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Methodology and research design

This study draws on an ethnographic approach and what is sometimes termed Ethnoaccountancy
(MacKenzie 1996, pp. 59-61, Tryggestad & Skrbk 2010, pp. 111). This is also in line with the
ethno-methodological tradition in which actor-network theory has its roots. True to such an
approach ANT is thus used as a method, a way of accessing the empirical site rather than a theory for
understanding the actions of actors, not providing a language for the actors behavior (Latour 1999
A-ANT). In this case this means that the study is concerned with providing a description of how
accounting is practiced, more specifically what role inscriptions play in local accounting practices and
how these are negotiated and translated in practice. The research design utilizes a method of tracing
the actions of relevant actors and tracing the inscriptions as they travel through the organization(s).
The case study is based on qualitative field work conducted at the organizations during a period of 15
months from the spring of 2013 to the late summer of 2014 (estimated). The field work was
conducted at multiple sites in the organizations, both in the separate organizations and their units as
well as in arenas where both organizations were represented. As part of the field work I was during
this time for several periods present at the hospital during office hours for entire weeks. Here I was
provided with a working desk so I could sit amidst the practitioners. I was granted full access to the
administrative department, received my personal access card and privileged access to internal
computer systems, accounting systems, intranet and even selected dimensions of the IT systems
devoted to patient journals and electronic communication amongst departments and (also) between
the hospital and the municipality. For most of this period I was affiliated with the coordination
department at the Hospital, a department subsidiary to the hospital administration. The
department is responsible for handling tasks related to the relationship to the municipalities in the
region, decentralized health care services provided by the hospital and internal routines for
coordination and cooperation. During this period I followed a number of meeting arenas, both on
internal matters as well as meeting arenas were both the hospital and the municipality was
represented. Being present at the department over time allowed for me to follow also informal
meeting arenas, such as ad-hoc conversations and unplanned discussions, lunch time talks and
discussions before and after planned meetings. This allowed for me to engage in asking questions to
participants, both ahead of meetings and in the hours and days afterwards. During this period I spent
quite a number of days at my desk in the field, this allowed for me to observe the everyday life at the
department, but it also allowed for me to spend as much time as I needed to browse internal
documents and IT-systems, all of those for which I had access. During this work I had every
opportunity to ask questions about things that needed clarification and discuss elements I came
across with the people dealing with this, and quite often the people who had authored or shared the


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information and documents I was grappling with. Inspired by an ethnographic approach these
periods may be seen as extensive participatory observations. More specifically the notion of
participation does not mean real participation, it is not about doing the exact same thing as those
being observed, such as writing invoices or preparing documents for meetings, but watching these
things being done (Delamont 2007). Thus participant does not suggest doing what those being
observed do, but interacting with them while they do it (Delamont 2007, p. 207). The field work of
this study, in ethnographic or sociological terms, can be characterized by a partial immersion2 into
the research site(s). This implies that the researcher spends a large portion of the time as participant
at the site, whilst the rest is spent away from the field. This allows for an iterative research process
where the time spent at the site writing field notes and collecting data is combined with an ongoing
analytical and theoretical process conducted both on and off site. The fieldwork conducted at the
hospital, the field-notes, the traces of documents and actions are here presented as a theorized
account of the role of inscriptions in the organizational life at the hospital and the municipality.
The fieldwork presented here thus relies on several empirical sources, including open in-depth
interviews, participatory and non-participatory observations and extensive document studies.
Interviews were conducted with representatives of both the hospital and the municipality; these
representatives included top managers, mid-level managers, managers at the operative level,
accountants and health personnel including doctors and nurses. These interviews were conducted
mainly as open-ended phenomenological in-depth interviews lasting on average from 1 - 1 hours. I
also engaged in informal talks with people in their work situation during observations, before or after
meetings and at the lunch table. Observations mainly consisted of meeting observations where I took
notes in the form of meeting minutes (dialogues), pre-scripts and post-scripts. Observations also
included watching as health personnel received training and tutoring in the use of IT-systems (e.g.
patient journals and messaging systems).
This papers focus on the role of inscriptions affords a particularly great interest to documents as an
empirical source of evidence, this focus makes them significant non-human matters that become
important in this account that attempts to reconstruct the translations of local practices. Documents
that become particularly important in this account include national laws, regulations and bye-laws,
budgets, white-papers, governmental guidelines, regional guidelines, cooperation agreements,
locally produced practical guidelines, meeting minutes, consensus protocols, user-manuals and
various communication forms. The documents investigated include publicly available documents,
internal documents of each organization and documents produced for the relationship partner and
also co-produced documents. The focus of this paper is mainly on the latter, and the tracing of the

Sett in note fra samme ref med forklaring full and partial immersion


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translation of inscriptions and the investment in co-producing additional inscriptions that is ongoing
in the daily operations of these organizations.


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Empirics: Framing cross boundary health care service provision

The recent reformative trends in the Norwegian health sector, and the coordination reform, largely
represents an initiative to redistribute tasks of health care service provision in the relationship
between the two layers of public health services in Norway, that of the specialist health care services
in the regional health enterprises and hospitals, and that of the generalized health and social care
provided by the municipalities. When the reform was initially presented the focus was put on lack of
efficiency in the total health care system, and wrongful use of funding. The shift initiated by the
governmental program can be generally described as a matter of shifting tasks and responsibilities
from the specialist health care to municipal service providers.
Norway is one of the OECD countries that use the most public [health-funding] per
person, but we dont get correspondingly much good health in return []. We must get
better at governing the money that comes into the health services. My opinion is that a
lot of money is spent wrongfully in the health service. [] Much, and more, money will
still be put into the specialist health care. Hospitals shall be a cornerstone of the health
service. [] This means betting on prevention rather than repair, and providing
economic incentives that enables the municipalities to provide the health services the
residents need. The growth in resources must increasingly be put into building services
in the municipalities. It will pay off for the municipalities to bet on preventive efforts, so
that people need less specialist health care. And it will pay off for hospitals and
municipalities to team up. (Health Minister, Bjarne Hkon Hanssen in HOD 2008)
This is the voice of the Minister of health and care services in office at the time as he introduces the
reform in the White Paper that presents the foundation of the reform (HOD 2008). The reform places
particular emphasis on the development of financial incentives that are supposed to effect
organizational structures and practices of service provision. The then present government felt that
serious shortcomings of the financing system and incentive effects had for several years hampered
advances for better coordination and cooperation between various parties of the health care system
(HOD 2008). Initially the government prescribed several new approaches, so called system measures,
to mediate ((promote)) a more holistic approach in care services these promoted a stronger
integration of the financing system. The three key approaches included (I) implementing municipal
co-financing of specialist health care, (II) transfer of the financial responsibility for dischargeable
patients from the hospitals to municipalities and (III) increasing the degree of block funding to the
specialist health care. All these financial incentive arrangements implied significant changes to
legislation and prescribed large and smaller changes in local practices. This paper focuses on the
second device presented; that is the transfer of the financial responsibility for dischargeable patients
from the hospital to the municipality. This is the PDP, Payment for Dischargeable Patients, presented


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in the introduction to this paper. The PDP was initiated to provide a financial incentive for
municipalities to provide care for a larger part of patients, relieving the increasing pressure on the
hospitals. The intent was that moving part of the funding from the health enterprises and hospitals
to the municipalities was to allow for more cost effective treatment of patient groups, and allow the
municipal greater degree of freedom in establishing care services for, to them, new patient groups.
The arrangement involved a movement of 600 million NOKs from the regional health enterprises to
the municipalities, money which should cover the estimated cost for dischargeable patients
occupying hospital beds after being declared ready for discharge. This restructuration of health care
funding policy was supposed to be 100% funded for the municipalities, meaning that the move of
funding from the health enterprises should fully cover the municipal expenditures for dischargeable
patients. In other words the municipalities should be able to keep the same number of dischargeable
patients in hospital beds without experiencing a deficit. At least from the beginning, with the same
level of patients in need for care. The municipalities were to pay 4000 NOK for each day a patient
defined as ready for discharge occupied a bed in specialist health care. The incentive was initiated on
the assumption that a bed in the municipality, for these types of patients, cost relatively less than a
hospital bed (per day). The intent was that since municipal care for these patients should be
relatively cheaper, the municipalities should by supplying care for an increasing number of these
patients be able to create a surplus which could be re-invested into the establishment of care
services. In addition to this restructuration in funding, municipalities were able to apply for subsidies
and investment-funding for the establishment of initially required services in the form of ear-marked
development projects.
The PDP, as a financial incentive arrangement, can be seen as an accounting innovation implemented
to promote the governmental program of the coordination reform. The introduction of the incentive
arrangement can be seen as a project within the larger program of realigning the responsibility for
care provision amongst the layers of health authorities ((service providers)). As an accounting ((a
financial)) innovation the incentive schema represents an effort to promote a certain program of
action, that of coordinating the provision of health care services in a certain, different, ((NEW))
manner between the hospital and the municipality. The incentive arrangement is one effort into
promoting a different, more efficient, coordination ((and cooperation)) between the service
providers. To implement the changes suggested by the new arrangement into practice a number of
investments are required, an endeavor subject to multifaceted challenges including the
establishment of new practices for book-keeping (accounting), billing, communication between
organizations and amongst internal units, medical and treatment specific questions, contracting
issues and []. The establishment of the PDP, as an accounting innovation, requires substantial


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efforts by governing bodies, but also the involved relationship partners providing services. The
following account seeks to reconstruct the materialized traces of the process of creating the
incentive arrangement, but seeks to reconstruct this accounting innovation as entangled in a larger
nexus of inscriptions involved in the coproduction of cross boundary service provision. The focus is
on how the incentive arrangement, through various inscriptions, aims at reconfiguring organizational
practice surrounding the handling of patients ready for discharge and the flow of patients between
the hospital and the municipality. The inscriptions built around the initial incentive arrangement are
in detail reconstructed to understand how these aid in the framing of organizational action.
Following the traces of the successive investments in inscription building conducted to promote the
program of action the account establishes []
//The PDP framing cross boundary health care services across [in] time and space//
Transfer of the financial responsibility for patients ready for discharge to the municipalities was part
of the initial government initiated reform and the scheme was put in effect from 2012. In practical
terms this arrangement invokes a payment obligation onto the municipality for patients deemed no
longer in need for specialist health care. The arrangement, and the payment obligation, was put into
effect from the 1st of January 2012 as regulated by the new law on municipal health- and care
services published in June 2011 (Lovdata 2011a). This replaced the old law on municipal health
services of 1982 (Lovdata 1982) and the law on social services of 1991 (Lovdata 1991). The law
regulates a series of dimensions in health and social care within the municipal domain, hereunder its
purpose is amongst other things to ensure the quality and egalitarianism of health services. Of
particular importance in this case is the laws purpose of ensuring coordination, user-oriented
provision of services and optimal use of resources (Lovdata 2011a, 7-4, 5, 6). The law further
defines the municipal responsibilities in health and social care service provision (Lovdata 2011a,
chapter 3). The municipalities duties to facilitate coordination and cooperating, both internally and
with other service providers, is also explicitly stated (Lovdata 2011a, 3-4). The cooperation between
municipalities and regional health enterprises, hospitals and others is further specified (Lovdata
2011a, chapter 6). This includes their duty to negotiate and enter into collaborative agreements with
both regional health enterprises and local health enterprises (e.g. hospitals) as well as it designates
the minimum requirements of thematic content of these agreements (Lovdata 2011a, 6-1,2,5).
Further it governs the evaluation, re-negotiation and revision of these agreements. The financing of
the municipal health and social services are regulated in a single chapter of the law. (Lovdata 2011a,
chapter 11). The arrangement for municipal payment for patients ready for discharge is specified in
this part of the legislation (Lovdata 2011a, 11-4). This establishes that the payment obligation is in
effect from 1st of January 2012 and defines the patient groups to which the arrangement is


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applicable. The law empowers the Ministry of Health and Social Services to further regulate the
scope and content of the arrangement in national bye-laws.
The law on municipal health and care services (Lovdata 2011a) represents the materialization of the
governmental translation of the arrangement at that time, and contributes to create a foundation for
the further regulation of local organizational arrangements, and also the successive process(es) of
inscription building. Miller and Rose (1992) have commented on the importance of legislation in the
operationalization of governmental programs of action;
The enactment of legislation is a powerful resource in the creation of centres [of
calculation], to the extent that law translates aspects of a governmental program into
mechanisms that establish, constrain, or empower certain agents or entities and set
some of the key terms of their deliberations. (Miller and Rose 1992, pp. 189-190)
The introduction of the new law on municipal health and care services thus represents (parts of and)
a basis for the development of financial and economic controls directed at framing service provision.
The law authorizes the execution of the PDP as a formal system control and in so establishes a
(figurative) frame in which the groups of participants must calculate. Whilst authorizing the
implementation of the accounting innovation, the legislation in itself is not enough to ensure the
change of practice. Embedding the PDP in law does not necessarily determine the decisions of
managers and health-personnel, but it sets part of the terms in which their actions ((decisions)) must
be taken (Rose and Miller 1992). More importantly, here, the law becomes important in establishing
a basis onto which further efforts to frame action can be attached. The law authorizes, and places
regulatory demands on, the negotiation and establishment of regional and local contracts governing
the relationship between hospitals and municipalities. By authorizing the establishment of such local
arrangements, as well as determining legislative maneuverability for the parties, the law establishes
autonomy to separate authorities and empowers ((enables)) other ((different)) bodies [the
organizations] to conduct change processes. At the same time the law provides a basic frame to
which the service providers can be held accountable, both towards state and local government and
between the organizations.
The introduction of new legislation thus becomes an important effort into framing service provision.
The law, and in effect the PDP, appropriates funding throughout the system. If the incentive
arrangement, and the redistribution of public funding, is to function accordingly to the intended
program of action this depends upon an alignment of interests and the compliance by allies. Miller
and Rose (1992) use this point to illustrate how withholding funds can be an important inducement
to ensure the faithfulness of allies to their program. What becomes interesting in this case is that the
PDP involves a redistribution of block funding to service providers, and does not allot for the


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possibility for governmental withholding of funds. However, the construction of the PDP, and the law
in which it is authorized enables the participant service providers to be accountable to govern the
funding amongst them, and also responsible for actually holding each other to account. The law thus
creates a frame in which certain accountability structures are established, the further development
of localized practice is a matter that requires further (both) governmental and local efforts.
///Framing what patients are included///
The governmental introduction of the new law on health and care services is not the only
investments made to introduce the incentive arrangement of the PDP. Simultaneously as the new
law was introduced the government put into effect the regulation of municipal co-financing of the
specialist health care and municipal payment for patients ready for discharge (Lovdata 2011b). The
regulation directly extends the law presented above and its purpose is to [] contribute to better
task distribution among service levels [] develop good patient careers and cost-efficient solutions
that can provide the patients with an equally good or better services in [the municipalities] as in the
specialist health care (Lovdata 2011b, 1). The regulation further specifies the scope of the
arrangement which includes payment obligation for patients who stay admitted in the hospital
pending the provision of municipal services (Lovdata 2011b, 2). This is fairly straight forward. The
further scope and content of the regulation is rather more direct towards the actions to be taken on
by the parties when handling patients with a (expected) need for municipal services. The regulation
can thus be seen as a procedure designating what actions should be taken by both the hospital and
the municipality in cases where there are patients included within the frame of the law. The
following paragraph summarizes central elements of the regulation directed directly at designating
action to be taken (Lovdata 2011b, chapter 3). This is also illustrated ((represented)) in figure 1 (see
also appendix 1).


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The document delineates a quite clear timeframe for actions to be taken in the case of patients
admitted to the hospital which are in need of municipal care services when discharged. The
regulations state that any patient admitted to the hospital needs to be evaluated for the need of
municipal services at the point of admission (Lovdata 2011b, 7). It further regulates the
communication between the hospital and municipality both concerning the timeframe, content and
nature of communication. If a patient is deemed likely to be in need of municipal care after being
discharged the hospital is required to notify the municipality within 24hrs, this notification needs to
contain details on the patients status, expected patient career ((patient/clinical pathway)) and
expected time of discharge (Lovdata 2011b, 8). Thus this is denoting a rather tight control.
However, due to the nature of the task at hand - curing deceases and saving lives - the regulations
open for the need for making assessment as time passes and opens for exceptions; [if it is] not
possible to make the evaluation after [paragraph en andre ledd] within 24hrs after admission the
evaluations shall be made and the municipality notified as soon as possible (Lovdata 2011b, 8). The
regulations further state that there is to be ongoing notifications of changes from the hospital to the
municipality. As we will soon see this is not always the case, nor is it easy to achieve consensus on
amongst practitioners of both organizations. The framing of such adverse timelines is illustrated
below in figure 2.

///Regulative framing the program of action utopia///

The regulations state, in general terms, what action should be taken, at what time and by whom the
action should be taken. A quite tight procedure directed at framing patient care both across time and
space. The regulations extend the framing efforts made in the law, as presented above. Whilst the
law is focused on establishing an outer frame (figuratively speaking) for what patients (meaning what
services) are to be included into the arrangement, the regulation extends this into a more detailed


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frame for handling these patients. Framing, as the concept developed by Callon (1998), is thus largely
a matter of deciding who, or what, is inside or outside. The law thus aids in the development of a
frame of reference for the managers and health-personnel to establish what is calculable and what
is not (Vollmer et.al 2009). The regulation represents a further effort into establishing how this
should be acted upon, in other terms a further investment into framing how action should be
conducted. This involves a further detailing of responsibilities and rights, aimed at establishing
clearer lines of accountability. The paragraphs of the regulations and the attached notes establish a
concretized step-wise representation of how patient should be handled in the transition between the
two organizations, as an idealized code of conduct (or cookbook). The flow of patients is hardly a
straight forward task, nor is it likely to always be as predictable. As Callon (1998) emphasizes
deviations, or overflows, from the idealized frame (code of conduct) is rather the norm. This is
certainly the case here, and further efforts to handle irregularities, which are more like the
regularities, has to be made. The successive framing attempts, and inscription building processes, as
efforts to stabilize a certain program of action can be seen as investments in sealing leaky black
boxes3 (REF and FOOTNOTE).
From the outset a point of much controversy was the question of when a patient is to be defined as
ready for discharge. According to the regulations a patient is ready for discharge when the treating
doctor at the hospital considers him or her to be no longer in need of specialist care (Lovdata 2011,
9). The regulations do however list a series of criteria to be met and documented in the patients
journal. Problems and the situation at time of admission should be settled, arising problems should
be settled, unsettled questions must be accounted for, a judgment on diagnosis must be provided
along with a plan for patient follow-up and the patients overall level of functioning must be
accounted for including changes during the stay and expected progress. These are all demands put
on the specialists of the hospital. It is not however in many cases easily defined whether or not a
patient is ready for discharge and also there was, in the beginning, often a question of what, or how
much, information is needed for this to be adequate and appropriate for the municipality. Whether
or not a patient is dischargeable is hard to measure in absolute or quantitative terms, both
organizations thus experience a measuring problem that is fundamentally hard to overcome. The
practice on the matter becomes dependent upon the quality of information, on a series of more
qualitative parameters, shared between the groups of participants and the establishment of
consensus amongst practitioners. To some extent it is a question of power of definition, both when it
comes to evaluating the patients need for care, but also in terms of what information needs to be
provided and also how, in what form, and when this should be provided. The regulations as such do

Black boxing notion & leaky black boxes


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much to establish a frame, both in terms of time and space, but are at the same time rather open for
When a patient is defined as ready for discharge (only those in need of municipal services) the
hospital is to notify the municipality immediately (Lovdata 2011b, 10). If they are in need of care the
payment obligation is in effect, if not they fall outside the frame of the arrangement and get to go
home no payment due. When the municipality receives notification that the patient is ready for
discharge they are obligated to report back to the hospital department on when they can provide
needed services as soon as they are ready notification must be provided (Lovdata 2011b, 11). As
soon as this is provided the patient is ready for transfer from the hospital to the municipality.
From the time a patient is defined as ready to be discharged, and the requirements of the paragraphs
summarized above are met, the obligation of the municipality to pay for the patients stay waiting for
municipal services is in effect. In this sense the arrangement is built upon what can be presented as a
simple mathematical expression for the cost of a dischargeable patient which ties together several
central inscriptions ((inscription devices)) aligned to represent this arrangement of the coordination
reform. The law which anchors the obligations and responsibilities of the municipality and
effectuates the incentive arrangement, the regulation which further specifies the nature of the task
and the national budget (Regjeringen 2012,2013) which contains a chapter on the incentive
arrangement at hand, alongside a series of others relating to health and social services. In the
national budget for 2014 this price is set at 4125 NOK (approx. US$ 670) (Regjeringen 2014). The cost
of a patient who stays in the hospital after being defined as ready for discharge is thus the number of
days the patient is occupying a hospital bed whilst awaiting municipal services.


The laws and regulations presented above outline the PDP putting forward a frame of reference for
sorting patients that fall within the categories defined by the legislation, subsequently establishing
the basic conduct of how the organizations should coordinate patient flows. However, though the
legislation creates the foundation for defining a frame of reference under which the arrangement
should be enacted it does not represent, and far from it, a complete framing of all action concerning
patient flow between organizations. The legislation however provides a basis onto which further
efforts need to be made in order to gain compliance from involved parties to cooperate in the
manner intended. The legislation and financial arrangement enables such efforts to be made and acts
as both an empowering and legitimizing foundation for further investments in promoting the
program of action.


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//Cooperation-contracts and service agreements//

The legislation authorizes and demands the negotiation and establishment of local cooperation
agreements (contracts) between each hospital and municipality. This includes both the
establishment of an aggregated contract governing the general relationship, and the negotiation of
service agreements for each area of service. In total there are eleven service agreements governing
separate ((but interrelated)) parts of the relationship. One agreement is specifically devoted to
handling admission and discharge from the hospital and patient flow between the organizations. The
agreement is specifically constructed to incorporate the PDP and is directly built upon the legislative
framework presented above. In the case of this region the service agreement on admission and
discharge has been formulated as a set of practical guidelines for handling admission and discharge.
The agreement is a result of a negotiation surrounding the parties interpretation of the legislative
framework and a joint inscription building process. The agreement builds directly upon the
paragraphs of the regulation of municipal co-financing of the specialist health care and municipal
payment for patients ready for discharge (Lovdata 2011b), and represents a take-down version of
the legislation. As such the agreement can be seen as a translation of the legislation into practical
guidelines. The process of negotiating these guidelines was explicitly considered by the
administrative managers of both organizations to be just that, to translate the formal legislation into
more explicit and practical set of rules of thumb for practitioners. This process of inscription
building can be de described as the making of an extension of the legislation into a new device with
increased mobility able to circulate with more ease amongst new groups of practitioners in the
organizations. These practical guidelines, which also form the formal service agreement, are often
referred to by some hospital managers [coordinators] as the bible, which has become the
encyclopedia to refer to for them. The practical guidelines also contain a series of details on local
arrangements which specify the handling of communication flows between the organizations, this
represents an extension of the general rules of action from the legislation. Especially the agreement
specifies the timeframe of communication and patient transfers and specifies to a greater extent
how communication between the organizations should happen. An example of this is adding rules of
thumb establishing that the parties should stride for discharge during day-time, regular office hours
for the municipality. The agreement establishes criteria for the content of information and
documentation of care provided by either party, hereunder it extends the legislative specification of
when, what and to whom information needs to be provided. In day to day (co)operation it is these
guidelines that represent the inscription that is acted upon [that is performed]. The service
agreement also specifies the mutual responsibility for agreeing upon the matter in which information
is to be shared, that is the infrastructure or technology utilized to communicate.


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The hospital registers all their patients through their Patient Administration System, abbreviated PAS.
Here all patients are registered with personal identification details, demographics and it provides a
register of all contact with patients. The PAS also registers the flow of patients including what
department the patient is admitted to, all movement between units, and codifies patients according
to the stage of treatment from admission to discharge. This is the internal system of the hospital. The
clinics and departments also utilize various other technologies in their patient administration;
especially important is the Electronic Patient Journal system, EPJ. Here all patient journals, including
treatment information, medicine information and epicrisis are created and stored electronically. The
EPJ stores all information on care provided by both doctors and nurses. The municipalities on the
other hand have their own patient administration system, in this case this is called Gerica which has
separated modules of patient administration [plassadministrasjon] and electronic patient journals
[Gerica EPJ]. Both organizations need to register all their information in their own system to
coordinate and ensure quality in their treatment and patient flows. The new program of interorganizational coordination puts new demands on information sharing across organizational units.
The flow of patients from the hospital to the municipality is not new, patients were moved and
cooperation was handled before the introduction of the coordination reform, a point which cannot
be left out. Ahead of the reform however most information followed the patients personally. When
patients were discharged from the hospital they had their papers [epicrisis and medicine lists] with
them [physically]. Now patients are moved at a much speedier rate and transfers must be smoother,
thus timelier and more accurate information is needed to coordinate more effective transfers of
patients. As a part of the governmental program of the reform every region has been responsible for
implementing electronic messaging between hospitals and municipalities. This was introduced
through the governmental project Interaction 2.0: The Messaging lift 2009-2010 initiated by the
Norwegian Directorate of Health (Helsedirektoratet 2009). The process of adapting and
implementing e-messaging is beyond the scope and reach of this paper, however these technologies
are of crucial importance in the coordination of patients and in daily patient care.
All information about patients requiring municipal care after hospital admission is supposed to be
conveyed through e-messages, creating a link for electronic sharing of information between the
hospitals EPJ and the municipal EPJ system. This requires the establishment of a system able to
translate information from each system into pieces of information which can be processed and
included in the other partys system. A module for messaging is incorporated in each organizations
system created to receive and allow for the processing of forms containing information, this was
again dependent upon the negotiation and implementation of a mutually understood language and a


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mutual understanding of the information to be shared. This illustrates the crucial inter-dependencies
of various technologies and inscription devices. The e-messaging modules created to facilitate the
translation of information between the systems of each organization are linked to the legislative
frame of information sharing and the locally negotiated rules of thumb in the service agreement and
guidelines. The technology is created in order to standardize and facilitate the sharing of the
information needed and the chain of inscriptions created to guide behavior frames the content and
use of information sharing. The information shared between the EPJ systems form the
documentation and the basis of accounting for patient flows between the organizations. The hospital
is responsible for collecting payment from the municipality according to the PDP arrangement. The
invoices sent from the hospital to the municipality are based upon the coding in the PAS system. It is
the responsibility of doctors and nurses to register the information in both the EPJ system and PAS,
which are separate operations. When the municipality then receives the invoice they need to control
this against the registered information in their EPJ system, which is the information base upon which
they can act to hold the hospital to account.
//The supporting cast further investment in framing enactment is needed - FURTHER LOADS//
The account above have established the importance of several legislative and locally co-produced
inscription devices and their interconnectedness with important technologies created to establish a
new way of coordinating patient flows between the organizations. All of the inscriptions so far
discussed are of a legislative or procedural nature, and are of importance in establishing a frame to
which groups of participants must refer their actions. However, whilst the legislative inscriptions and
the translation of these into practitioner directed practical guidelines are important, there has been
made several additional efforts into the production of inscriptions directed at framing organizational
behavior both on the part of both organizations and mutual efforts. The legislative inscriptions and
contracts frame to a large extent the responsibilities and rights of each group of participants,
however there is no guarantee that this ensures the compliance of various actors. Even though they
might comply, it is not plausible, nor is it the case, that all involved actors are able to enact this in the
intended manner. To ensure that tasks are conducted according to the intent several successive
investments in inscriptions are made. This involves the further translation of intentions into even
more practically relevant, understandable and persuasive devices directed at even more specific
audiences. To exemplify the hospital management, through the efforts of the coordination
department, have made substantial investments ((efforts)) into the creation of specific textual and
visual inscriptions for the health-personell in their registration of patient information and
information sharing [e-messaging & other comm.forms]. This as a part of regular training programs in
the use of information technology, but also as textual inscriptions dispersed across the departments


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in various physical shapes. The hospital has produced a series of user-manuals for practitioners when
it comes to the use of e-messages. These range from 12-15 page click-by-click user manuals, to
shorter quick-start leaflets in the form of picture series showing step-by-step screenshots from the
graphical user interface of the EPJ system. These inscriptions follow the structure of the regulatives
for required and recommended information sharing, but take this down to a pragmatic visual
example. These inscriptions are made available through the hospitals intranet and are incorporated
as obligatory steps in each patient career through formalized procedures. The user manuals are also
physically dispersed to each department and available through the computers where the EPJ is used.
The hospital have also produced so-called pocket-guides, laminated single sheet guides, with
mnemonic lists for each registration task. These are provided for the personnel to carry around on
their person, or as easily accessible as the keyboard on the computer. These are examples of further
inscriptions created to be even more mobile than the legislative and regulatory devices. These
represent a more concrete translation of the hospitals interpretation of the regulatives and
represent a more stable and more accessible version which opens for less interpretation and more
pragmatic procedures on the part of practitioners. This is of course not to say that this ensures
complete framing and on-the-dot compliance and execution at all times. The municipalities also
have check-lists for their information registration and documentation, this follows corresponding
check-lists for patient treatment. These much resemble in form the ones produced and utilized by
the hospital. These checklists are directly incorporated in the registration forms of the [GERICA] EPJ
The hospital must everyday keep records of the number of dischargeable patients still occupying
beds in specialist care. This is communicated directly to the department of the municipality
responsible for coordinating users and patient allocation. This is used to constantly monitor the
development and to keep record of the state of affairs at a more general level. The collection of
payment is made periodically when the municipality receives an invoice from the hospital. The
municipality must then check this against their EPJ system which holds the information to which they
must hold the hospital to account. The hospital is required to be able to document that the necessary
information has been provided, according to the legislation. The hospital and municipality have
reached an agreement on how to handle deviations from the regulatives. Deviations that are in
direct violation of the regulative (Lovdata 2011b) must be reported and negotiated by the managers
of the organizations [director of the coordination department and the director of municipal health
and care services]. Deviations that are not deemed as direct violations of the regulative on
information sharing is reported between the parties and incorporated in each organizations quality


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management systems. Both these types of deviations from the intended program of action can be
seen as overflows, and the results of unintended action.

Establishment of a hospital ward for dischargeable patients

o Internal control unit
Establishment of a municipal ward for dischargeable patients
o To clear the PAS-LIST initiative to perform

Preliminary discussion
In this paper I seek to investigate how inscriptions got involved with promoting a governmental
program of action through the introduction of the PDP, a financial incentive arrangement. The
account above attempts at reconstructing a chain of inscriptions as investments made to frame
organizational action. This has been described as a work of translation, more specifically as the work
of attaching ever new loads to the initial statement of the program of action. The phenomenon that
is being tackled is thus not the work of inscribing on its own, or the isolated inscription per se, but
the chain of ever simplified inscriptions made to promote a certain organizational practice (adapted
from Latour 1987b, p. 16). This chain of investments can perhaps be better seen as the circulation of
various devices providing reference to the intended program of action. The creation of reference,
again, is the act of keeping something constant through the series of transformations (Latour 1999, p
58). In investigating the assemblages of various inscriptions this is a matter of the quality of the chain
of transformations, and the viability of its circulation (Latour 1999, p. 310). Empirically this is a
matter of how inscriptions are aligned and mobilized in order to produce a viable reference to the
program of action.
The PDP, as a financial incentive arrangement, can be seen as a construction of a nexus of
inscriptions including the legislative and (local) contractual inscriptions. The introduction of the
arrangement can in these terms be viewed as an accounting (based) innovation aimed at promoting
a new way of coordinating services across organizations. The PDP then contributes by making the
patient flow between health care service providers calculable. The argument forwarded is thus that
by combining a series of inscriptions the program aspires to create a calculative center which can be
acted upon by managers, but which also aids in the framing of operational activity. Making the


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handling of patient flows between the hospital and municipality calculable thus becomes an
important means in promoting the program of action. The introduction of PDP, as a (quite crude)
price mechanism, is a way of standardizing entities which implies a process of stabilization. This task
requires the efforts of various groups of participants, including financial analysts, economists, and
medical experts. To the extent that it becomes important again relies upon the enactment of it by
professionals (operatives). The analysis here focuses less on the process through which these actors
have produced the price mechanism per se, than the interconnectedness of the various inscriptions
that are built to promote compliance to the program of action the price mechanism is intended to
Rendering patient flows calculable is largely a matter of visualization. Latour (1987b) focuses on the
importance of optical consistency, a matter of creating a common perspective. Optical consistency
allows for pieces to mix with each other, that is rendering them commensurable and combinable. In
this sense an important intention in the introduction of the PDP and making cost visible. It is thus a
matter of introducing entities that can be viewed in similar terms by both organizations. This is
connected to the creation of a common visual culture (Latour 1987b, p. 9). In such terms the
definition of dischargeable patients is much a matter of turning complex phenomena into, one
amongst many, representations to which the eyes of both organizations can focus. The combination
of various inscriptions is needed to create calculability, in order to understand how this is created we
can revisit the account above and look at how the inscriptions together form a center of calculation.
Enabling calculability requires as we understand more than the simple invention of a price
mechanism. To be able to perform according to the program of action and acting upon the newly
defined entity of dischargeable patients, and changed patient flows, requires the investment in a
series of inscriptions. Here the numerical inscriptions must be coupled with other more practical
guidelines. Calculative agency is, as established earlier, characterized by acts of framing,
disentanglement and performativity (Vollmer et.al 2009). Calculability is thus dependent upon much
more than the price mechanism per se. Framing involves [all of] the ((a series of)) distinctions used
by participant to distinguish what is calculable and what is not. Traces of the translations of all these
distinctions can be seen dispersed through the building of the various inscriptions described in the
above account. The legislation defines the patient group, dischargeable patients in somatic DRGs.
These are the ones affected by the PDP, at large. Defining patients upon these criteria is a result of an
active clinical or medical process in which care is provided, this is guided by another set of
inscriptions built to guide the process of treatment, such as patient careers. For the arrangement to


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function, and for the parties to be able to perform, a chain of information must circulate. The process
of information sharing is again guided by a set of textual procedures, guidelines and manuals. The
information sharing process, generating the data enabling the parties to calculate, is again a process
of enacting the schemes developed for translating information. The process of performing
information sharing again involves the building of inscriptions according to a common language, an
ongoing process of negotiation and translation. These successive inscriptions both aid in the further
framing of what can be calculated and what cannot. Furthermore, the successive investment in
practical guidelines, user manuals, forms and schemas facilitate disentanglement. Taken together it
is these inscriptions that enable both the producers of information and the users to select and draw
boundaries around elements that can be calculated. It is thus both a question of how managers and
accountants can extract numbers for calculating performance measures and keep account of patients
and relationship partners, but also the ((a)) way in which professionals can untangle elements
relevant for decision making and execution of tasks. Framing and disentanglement can thus be seen
as antecedents, or preconditions, of both managerial and operative (professional) action, the
performance of cross-boundary health care service provision. This is off course not to say that
calculability is all that frames the action involved, but it shows how accounting innovations through
inscriptions, as it becomes entangled and involved in a series of transformations becomes involved
with the ongoing process of promoting the program of action, and in general health care service
To delineate the traces of efforts made in order to promote the program of action, we can use a
simple diagram, as suggested by Latour (1991, p.107). In doing so we take the viewpoint of the
government [HOD] seeking to promote a certain way of coordinating tasks amongst hospitals and
municipal service providers, what we have called the program of action. This is the track, or path,
that the authorities would like the service providers to follow. To reconstruct the controversy of
introducing the program of action we depict this as a battlefield, in a less warlike manner, between
the program and anti-program. The anti-program represents the ones that need to be persuaded,
more than they represent true adversaries, or enemies. They are the performers that should act in a
different manner. The diagram shows each version of the program as it progresses with the efforts
made to promote it. Each new effort into inscription building is denoted by a number, this represents
each version of the program.


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At first, as the [HOD] first problematized the need for a new coordination of services and task
division, they were the only one enrolled to the program of action. This is version one (1). The
program is represented by the [HOD] and their statement, the coordination reform (White Paper,
HOD 2008). To persuade service providers, and individual managers and professionals, to follow the
program of action further investment is needed. To extend the program to the right comes at a price
(Latour 1991, p. 107). The [HOD] then introduced the PDP as a financial incentive arrangement
through the new law on municipal health services (Lovdata 2011a). This represented a move to
persuade, and legislatively commit, local governments and hospitals to initiate processes of change.
Simultaneously the [HOD] introduced the regulative on municipal co-financing of specialist health
care and payment for dischargeable patients (Lovdata 2011b). This further investment detailed the
arrangement for the service providers and further aided in gaining commitment from service
providers. Successively this legislative frame paved the way for the establishment of aggregated
cooperation agreements and service agreements. Now the parties are increasingly committed to the
program of action, and committed in joint efforts to cooperate. The controversy is however still not
settled, and further investment is required in the framing of organizational action. To enable
organizations to coordinate differently significant investments were made into the development of
technologies for information sharing, schemes and forms for communications. This provided a basis
for information gathering to enable calculation, at the same time it provided a platform onto which
professionals of both organizations could act to communicate and coordinate. The technical platform
proved insufficient alone to ensure that various actors could cooperate and coordinate according to
the initial intent. Further efforts are required, and further work of translation conducted. The
program needed to collaborate in further efforts to enable communication and flow in patient


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treatment. Both organizations, both separately and in collaborative efforts, made significant
investments in producing rules, procedures and other inscriptions dispersed to enable various groups
of participants in both decision making and perform operative tasks.
The initial intent of the [HOD] is successively accompanied by a series of efforts into promoting it.
This has enabled the PDP as a payment arrangement to circulate in the organization. To claim that
these efforts have fully framed, or ensured total compliance with the initial intention, would be
foolish, or at least to simple. The ability to coordinate services in a perfect manner is, again, most
likely an unachievable utopia. Even if its not, it is certain that the program of action will be
continuously transformed and will no longer remain the same as the initial intent. In this case the
efforts made to frame coordination and establish the PDP in succession ensured more compliance by
groups of participants to the program. The anti-program gradually surrendered, much as in Latours
(1991) example. The initial program was clearly however also transformed, the wish of the
coordination reform has become loaded. In the beginning it was unreal; in the end, it had gained
some reality (Latour 1991, p. 108). The abstract accounting innovation of the PDP, through a series
of reframing and transformation, had through the processes of inscription building, come to provide
substance to the new program of coordinating services. By transforming unsortable matter into
calculable entities the PDP, and successive framing attemtps, provided a frame onto which the
organizations could act.
//REFRAMING a contribution from focusing on the alignment-relatedness of inscr.//
The introduction of the PDP, along with other accounting innovations introduced as efforts of
making costs visible (Kurunmki & Miller 2008) can also be seen as a way of making the public
sector, in this case providers of health care services, auditable (Power 1996). The PDP, seen as an
assemblage of inscriptions, does in many ways contribute to the establishment and reconfiguration
of accountability structures. The calculative arrangement aids in the construction of a bureaucratic
surface upon which instances of government can hold service providers to account and a process of
performance audit can work (Power 1996, p. 309). The PDP, through the establishment of legislative
devices, enables government and state health authorities to hold service providers accountable
towards the program of action. The new legislation introduces a different task division between
layers of service provision, but at the same time it makes possible the calculation of specific (output)
performance measures to which service providers can be benchmarked and held to account. At the
same time the legislative devices provide a basic surface facilitating the further building of new
inscriptions directed at specifying ((purifying)) relational and internal accountability structures of the


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service providing organizations. Whilst the legislative frame authorizes and enable the government
to hold providers to account it also authorizes, and demands, the establishment of certain
accountabilities between relationship partners. Parties are required to create cooperative
agreements and contracts in which accountabilities are further specified. The aggregated cooperative
agreements, and successive service agreements, are jointly constructed in order to frame the
responsibilities and task division between parties, further represents the basis onto which the parties
can hold each other to account. Relationship partners have then continuously invested significant
efforts in the processes of building internal inscriptions directed at reconfiguring (mediating) internal
accountability structures and promoting internal coordination. Efforts into the creation of practical
guidelines and procedures for documentation (EPJ and information sharing) were constructed
directly aimed at defining employee tasks and creating a standard to which their activity could be
held to account. These efforts aid in the framing of internal activity, but also aid in the establishment
of procedures for engaging in cross-boundary interaction with relationship partners.
The PDP arrangement rests on a series of inscriptions, all aiding in the creation of calculability
(calculative agency). Power (1996, p. 309) emphasizes how things are made auditable through the
proceduralization of networks of trust, where things that were formerly unauditable can become
auditable at one point due to shifts in the network of trust. This case illustrates how [accounting]
inscriptions can play an important role in the creation of auditability by making things calculable.
Auditability is thus closely related to the creation of calculability. Power (1996, p.309) describes
auditability as a distinctive form of administrative objectivity ((PORTER 1994)) based on the acquired
acceptance of certain procedures, in a process of fact-building [...].
Powers (1996) notion of auditability can thus be seen in close relation to Latours (1987) notions of
visualization. []
The creation of calculable spaces is the creation of manageable spaces. But calculable spaces are
not straitjackets into which individuals are inserted (Miller 1994)
This paper has established how the PDP, as an accounting innovation, can be seen as dependent
upon the building of a chain of inscriptions, both numerical and non-numerical. The various
operationalizations in the form of these various inscriptions can be seen as the loads which provide
the arrangement with some reality, in doing so it is also a translation of the governmental program; a
translation of the initial intention, or wish, of a new way of coordination. Earlier in the paper I have


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drawn on Callons (2004) notion of agencements to denote the larger organizational configurations.
This implies looking at the organizations and the relationship between them, and the provision of
health care, as a nexus of human and non-human entities, i.e. people, technologies and inscriptions.
The [inter-]organizational agencement is a temporal, fragile and heterogeneous association of such
entities. This is our actor-network. The governmental program [of action] is seen as an attempt to
reconfigure these associations, an attempt to reassemble and reconfigure entities to perform as
intended. The introduction of the PDP as a part of a larger program to achieve this shows how
accounting and the enabling of calculative agency can become involved with reconfiguring such
organizational assemblages. The construction of the accounting innovation requires the careful
alignment of a [incessant] series of inscriptions to create an assemblage of inscriptions enabling the
larger agencement to act upon it in a certain manner. Through a series of translation, those for which
the inscriptions are the material evidences we can investigate, groups of participants negotiate a
frame which enables the context to be defined and calculated in a wholly new manner. The enabling
of such calculative agency can be seen as a result of efforts to induce a [certain] rationality into
service provision. Thus making patient flows calculable can be denoted as a process of rationalizing
the performance of care services. Rationalization in this case has little to do with the logical ability of
the people involved, but more to do with the extension of the network which makes it more stable
(Latour 1987b, p. 27). All the inscriptions that are loaded onto the program being promoted can be
seen as the results of efforts to add associations to the assemblages aimed at adding stability and
putting in place and reinforcing new ties. The PDP is an abstraction, just as dischargeable patient is
an abstraction. It enables the price mechanism to be recombined and merge with a series of other
inscriptions. This is where the accounting innovations become interesting, and it is through these
associations it becomes important. The visualization of new entities, such as the dischargeable
patient, and the ability to calculate upon these entities, shows that the enabling of quantifying these
terms is significant for how the work of service provision is organized. The numbers per se, i.e. the
price per patient, bed days, length of stays and readmissions, become important. The
numerification enables information to circulate in a totally different manner; they enable new and
different ways of acting upon the context. Latour (1987, p.28) stresses however that the emphasis
should not so much be put on these numbers in isolation; [] what should really be stressed is the
cascade of mobile inscriptions that end up in an account, which is, literally, the only thing that
counts. The PDP, or the price of 4125 NOK per day, are meaningless in isolation, they become
meaningful through its function within the larger assemblages of inscriptions, and further through its
performative connection to other entities in the larger organizational assemblage. The PDP through
the various materializations it is represented by becomes a center of calculation and enables the
interface between the separated organizations to become a calculable space, thus making it


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manageable. A abstract space is created in these ongoing translations, this new way of coordinating
can be seen as a totally new phenomenon. The abstractions, which now in one way or another have
become real entities, are fragile and minute reductions of what they represent, however it shows
how accounting numbers can come to dominate, or enable domination.

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Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner


Abstract: This work-in progress illustrates the role of management controls within a festival. The
festival is cultural-religious event in Norway taking place every summer. This factual statement
was however challenged in 2008 as the event almost faced bankruptcy. After such affair, the
festival was re-established and nowadays prospers well in economic terms. This descriptive case
study shows relevance of single management controls and their interconnectivity in the creative
industry of performing arts.

eva.lechner@hist.no, +47 45 12 32 38

Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner

1. Introduction
Performing arts, such as theaters, concerts, talks, public lectures and performances, are solidly
embedded in our society to the extent that their internal organizational life is taken for granted
and the outcome of these art forms is questioned mainly from the aesthetic point of view. Many
of us will perhaps not even see the organization behind these events. The name and the identity of
attended events thus become a synonym for artists or performers who did their best on stage. This
cultural experience must however be built on solid economic pillars, such a stable foundation
create a possibility for future cultural and social development.
This paper aims for a deep understanding of management and control approaches within
performing arts, especially in one of their branches festivals. In particular, the active use of
management controls is investigated and related to the time frame of one year. The research
question is stated as follows:
How are management controls used in a festival throughout the year?
To reach a close touch to reality, the single-unit analysis rich on empirical data has been
prioritized over surveys and other instruments of generalized results. The case study paints the
picture of control within a well-established cultural festival in Norway. As in many other
countries, competition among festivals is increasing and brings economic difficulties or even
bankruptcy for some of the actors. In 2008 the festival under study belonged to this group of
threatened species. However, stronger focus on management and control bear fruit and these days
the festival operates in black numbers. The empirical part of the paper visualizes these efforts as a
conceptualized model of management controls as a package. Utilized research method further
explains, why certain practices, manuals and activities were captured and employed by festival
managers and how are these interconnected.


Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner

2. Theoretical framework
2.1 The layout of management controls
Management controls, management control systems and frameworks have a number of meanings
as they are influenced by the theoretical development and progress in the empirical field. One of
the newest approach that also informs this paper, an open perspective of management controls, is
evident in Malmi and Browns (2008) study. The presented framework goes beyond one or two
theoretical lenses and also counts with time dynamics. Management control (MCS) are defined
Systems, rules, practices, values and other activities management put in place in order to direct
employee behaviour1.(Malmi and Brown, 2008, p. 290).
Hence, management controls are not pure decision making systems, but active instruments in
managers hands. The suggested framework of MCS as a package represents interests of different
actors claimed at different time and merged in one package of management systems.
Management controls are consisting of: cultural controls, cybernetic controls, reward and
compensation controls, planning controls and administrative controls. Each of the controls
consists of components, for instance planning control includes action planning and long-range
planning, cybernetic controls group budgets, financial measures and non-financial measures, and
hybrid measurement systems. Malmi and Browns model can be therefore understood as a
theoretical crossroad referring to already well-established concepts on management control
systems and frameworks.
Somewhere: Barretta and Busco (2011)? Caglio and Ditillo (2008)? Humphrey et al. (1993)?
Ouchi (1980)?
In seminal review paper on management controls systems, Chenhall (2003) presents management
control systems (MCS) as a set of management accounting practices that have been
systematically utilized by managers. MCS comes from organizational theory and are perceived as

Later in the text we can read that employees might be substitute by collaborative parties.


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Eva Lechner

managerial means by which can be reached organizational goals and outcomes. Chenhall (2003)
explains that a final layout of MCS is determined by the context of the organization environment, technology, structure and the size of MCS configuration are deemed as the most
influential contributors to the context. In 1990s were these contextual signs enriched by strategy
due to increasing significance of business models such as TQM, Just-in-Time and elements as
national culture and organizational substructures teams. Such an explanation of management
control systems suggests that each organization has unique MCS.
Although that a definition of MCS implies their active role, Chenhall (2003) later signalizes that
management control systems are usually viewed from the passive standpoint as supportive and
informative decision-making systems. The outcome of such systems is therefore judged on two
levels: usefulness of MCS within the organization and usefulness of MCS towards HR potential
of the organization, both approaches then further reflect performance of the organization.
Chenhalls point regarding systematic use of management controls seems to be critical and earlier
recognized by Flamholtz et al. (1985) and later refined by Flamholtz (1996). Flamholtz et al.
(1985) attempted to integrate knowledge of control of three scientific fields within one integrated
model. Their general model of controls contains contributions of administrative management
school, organizational sociologists and psychologists. The challenge of paradigms bear fruit and
an integrated framework of organizational controls has been defined as a model consisting of the
core control system (planning mechanism as ex ante control, measurement and feedback
mechanism, evaluation process and rewards) and the control context (organizational structure,
culture and external environment). The model was later extended on criterion of effectiveness,
i.e. goal congruence that can be achieved through behavior relevance, validity and reliability
(Flamholtz, 1996). A strategic perspective also brings Otley (1999) through his management
control framework, the focus is on how to reach strategic objectives and how to monitor such
effort (plans, target-settings, rewards and incentives and information are taken into account). The
framework is then implemented on control techniques - budgetary control, EVA and balanced
scorecards and inadequacies of each of the techniques are discussed. Chenhalls review of
contingency-based research on management controls highlights the mind of that time (1980s)
an organizational effort to achieve own goals, i.e. behavior of a firm in a closed system. Although


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Chenhall (2003) made some steps towards todays business life, particularly by pointing out JIT,
TQM and other technologies, the open systems, networks of companies which all try to achieve
the main goal, has been left without attention. ADD Fereiera and Otley 2009, Langfield-Smith
Dekker (2004) explores new vistas of open systems, building on organizational theory and
transaction cost economics (TCE) to explain the role of controls in inter-organizational relations
(IOR). TCE deals with three independent mechanisms market, hierarchy and hybrids
governance (according to Dekker 2004 in Williamson 1991). It is argued that based on
comparison of costs related to contractual conditions2, one of the mechanisms will be chosen to
rule the relationship, typical the one with the lowest transaction costs (Dekker, 2004). Dekker
(2004) continues in argumentation that hybrid mechanism matches with IOR framework.
However, TCE is limited3 when it comes to explaining some aspects of IOR and must be
supplemented with other theories, especially organization theory.
Thus, Dekker (2004) proposes extended framework of understanding inter-organizational
relationships, where both formal (stemming from TCE) and social (arising from organization
theory) controls are introduced as solutions to control problems. The model departs from
theoretical antecedents interdependence, task uncertainty, asset specificity, environmental
uncertainty and frequency. One may easily see these factors as single contextual elements
described by Chenhall (2003). However, due to the inclusion of the broader view, relations
among interdependent business entities, Dekker (2004) draws attention to the control of these
relationships and extends the conventional view on management controls.
TCE as an explanatory power to management control challenges was suggested already in 2001
by Spekl and became soon popular among scholars. Spekls pioneering taxonomy of general
control archetypes built on TCE is seminal. From the TCE perspective have been control
solutions in IOR, joint ventures, i.e. organizations of mixed ownership, discussed by Kamminga
and Van der Meer-Kooistra (2007). Compared to other control frameworks, Kamminga and Van
der Meer-Kooistra (2007) introduce a new element within control framework dynamics.

costs relate to writing, monitoring, adapting and enforcing contracts (Dekker 2004, p. 28)

TCE blindly focuses on opportunistic behaviours and therefore neglects a broad array of IOR forms (and goals) also social

context, so much typical and decisive in IORs is omitted (Dekker 2004).


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Dynamics facilitate change over control frameworks as relations and transactions are not deemed
as static and steady.

2.2 Use of management controls

As it was earlier pointed out, management controls are utilized by managers. Thereby, several
studies inform about use of management controls. For example, Oriot (2005) focuses on
decentralized adoption of management control systems within the French bank chain. A conflict
between use of management control system by senior and operational managers of a restaurant
chain is captured by Ahrens and Chapman (2004) who find that enabling use of the systems
support organizational flexibility and efficiency. Enabling use must be underpinned by internal
and global transparency, flexibility and repair aspect, i.e. updated and useful application of the
accounting processes on the operational level of the organization. The idea of management
control systems as a shared source and the notion of situated functionality, i.e. capacity of senior
managers to cooperate with operational managers regarding the implementation of centralized
goals in local context, have been developed by Ahrens and Chapman (2007). The study of senior
not-for-profit managers and use of management controls suggests that prior performance may
affect control and use of formal controls (i.e. a set of controls implemented by the main funder,
i.e. government) and informal controls (controls encompassing overall performance of the
organization) is a matter of fact (Tucker and Thorne, 2013).
The strategic use of management controls is also debated by Simons (1995), so called levers of
control belief systems (cultural ideals communicated and reinforced by top managers) are
balanced with boundary systems (organizational limits) and incorporated with diagnostic systems
that draw managerial attention to the outcomes (measures) and at the same time, interactive
systems are employed to bring some activity towards processes and enable organizational
adaptation to the new or unforeseen circumstances. Levers of control are understood as neverending competing forces that support renewal of strategy (and creative innovation) and
simultaneously goal accomplishment. Sheehan et al. (2005)?


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2.3 Management controls in the performing arts

Performing arts have been subject of rapid development influenced by technological or artistic
innovations or a combination of both and such changes have brought impact on their attendance
rate (Hellbrun, 1993). In the context of the United States, an adverse impact has been noticed
mainly by symphonic orchestras, while theatres, opera, dance performances and arts museums
had not struggled that much in economic terms. The popularity of performing arts has a strong
connection to their funding and final realization. The European view in this matter is different as
many more of these artistic forms are publicly subsidized. However, global developments and
competition in the arts diminish the differences. Caust (2003) argues that to justify governmental
funding to the arts, governments started to highlight also other benefits, i.e. economic benefits
that suppress unique and main benefit of the arts, i.e. gain of personal transformational
experiences. Economic benefits of cultural events have been studied, for example, by Thrane
(2002) or Herrero et al. (2006). Caust (2003) warns against a managerial and rationalistic art
sector driven only by governmental bureaucrats and calls for higher involvement of artists and
arts workers in this debate.
Rather than radical change of the trends within the industry of popular music, Jacobs and Evans
(2012) see art naturally accompanied by commerce and in their analysis of artists views on
accounting and accountants come to the conclusion that the accountant is perceived both as the
villain and the hero. Such a claim supports the idea that artistic credit and economic gains are in
an ongoing discord. Partial agreement on Causts call against exclusive managerial leading role
in the arts is also expressed by Rentschler and Potter (1996), however as authors outline, a
broader notion of accountability should be achieved, i.e. both financial and non-financial aspects
should be taken into consideration. Performing arts organizations should focus more on effective
use of resources and efficient operations. These efforts should be unified under the mission
statement mirroring values important for public (e.g. cultural, educational) and economic values.
Such modus operandi enhances innovation, particularly diversification and therefore stimulates
performing arts organizations to approach new visitors. The gained accountability further helps in
defence of the core product and in justification of public funding. Management control in a
specific category of the arts - product design is explored by Armstrong and Tomes (1996) who
have been mostly concerned with managerial control of such mental process that is hard to


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predict in advance and difficult to transferred into accountable form, i.e. translated into numbers
and words:
Ultimately the self-defeating character of accountable design stems from the impossibility of
planning for an outcome which depends, in its nature on unpredictability. (Armstrong and
Tomes, 1996, p. 123).
Festivals have been analyzed from the stakeholder point of view, see Andersson and Getz (2008);
Getz et al. (2006). From a leadership perspective, the role of newly hired well-experienced
festival leader and his impact on strategic changes of the festival and final results of such changes
have been discussed by Caust (2004). Behavioral outcomes related to governmental funding of
one of the largest festival in Europe, Festspiele in Salzburg have been outlined by Frey (1986).
Resource-dependence theory has been chosen by Mykletun (2009) to explain the central success
factor of growth and prosperity of the extreme sports festival. Cultural and business aspects in
context of Norwegian festivals have been recently elaborated by Nss (2014).
Nevertheless, the research gap remains regarding practical control and accounting matters, thus
this pioneering study brings an example of the festival that can be proud of balanced economy
after the financial reborn.

3. Research design
The research method used in this paper is a case study method. Yin (2003) describes case studies
from three standpoints: according to the type of research question, researchers influence of
behavioral events and type of the phenomena (historical/contemporary). So, case study research
prioritizes research questions starting with how and why, a researcher does not control
behavioral events and contemporary phenomena is under study.
Scapens (2012) reflects upon Yins view on case study method and agrees mainly with Yins
conception of single unit analysis perspective, the chosen type of method for this paper. This
means that business and accounting scholars should focus on in-depth case study which uncovers
contemporary phenomenon in real-life context. Scapens (2012) further suggests paying attention
to another characteristic of case studies blurred boundaries between the context and
phenomenon. His interest in single unit analysis stems from importance of differentiation


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between business surveys and true case studies, which are far richer in a number of evidence for
given context and phenomena.
This research project consists of three phases. First, document analysis was conducted in
winter/spring 2013. Documents annual reports, operating budgets, newspaper articles, and other
sources of information (for instance municipality reports etc.) were gathered and analyzed.
Second, observations in field for three festival days (July 2013) were carried along with another
PhD. candidate. Observations started already at 8 oclock with the morning meeting of festival
managers and volunteers. Afterwards, we observed discussions that took place around a coffee
machine and could be characterized as small talks or chats. There we often identified our research
subjects which we followed for the rest of the day. We tried to observe holistically, i.e.
organization of particular events and inside life of the festival. Our participant-observation was
also extended by an extra dimension i.e. participation in events as spectators. These two
dimensions of being: researchers and festival spectators went hand in hand. Moreover, a number
of interviews on informal basis and off-record were carried out. In such high-paced and often
noisy environment recording was almost impossible. To capture feelings and important moments,
the cell phone camera has been utilized. Most of the time we observed festival together, except
for five or six hours when we split in order to capture two important moments taking place at the
same time. In order to fully grasped the meaning and achieve some quality in our study, we did
breaks at coffee shops where we shared our reflections. Our observational days started early and
ended very late and our bikes helped us to move from one venue to another as fast as possible.
Third, eight semi-structured interviews with selected actors were carried out in spring 2014, see
Table 1, to clarify situation in field during observations and enrich understanding of management
control in the festival. Questions asked were open-ended in nature, see Yin (2003, p. 90).
Interviews were structured according to the interview guides that mirror theoretical approach of
Malmi and Brown (2008), see an example of the interview guide in Appendix. Each interview
guide was reshaped according to the interviewees position and already (un)known facts.


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Table 1: Semi-structured interviews

Project manager - volunteers
Event manager
Marketing and communication manager
Program manager 2
Project manager 2
Project manager 1
Venue manager
Program manager 1

28.4.2014, 5.5.2014

The length of the interview

1 hour 52 minutes
1 hour 4 minutes
1 hour 3 minutes
40 minutes
1 hour 52 minutes
1 hour 34 minutes
1 hour 33 minutes
43 minutes

This research method covers all sources of evidence mentioned by Yin (2003): documents,
archival records, interviews, direct observation, participant-observation and physical artefacts (in
form of photos, program flyers, etc.). Validity and reliability of this case study is internally
managed with the help of a case study database providing a chain of evidence suggested by Yin
(2003). Middle-range thinking encouraged by Laughlin (1995) is performed within this research
paper, as back and forth process between theory and methods were capitalized and middle
focus was held, i.e. being open to change and at the same time ready to accept status quo
regarding theory and methodology.

4. Empirical findings
The festival in question situated in Norway is a regular event taking place for eight days every
summer. Compared other summer festivals, this festival is specific by its program as the focus is
both on cultural and religious events. The festival offers over 200 events, some of them for free
and the rest within price range NOK 150 NOK 450. The annual budget of the festival is about
NOK 30 mill and more than a half consists of public subisidy. The festival was established in
1960s as many other festivals in Europe (e.g. XZ, TT, FF). Despite its maturity and status the
festival faced a financial crisis in 2008 that almost caused festival bankruptcy. The municipal
auditing report explains this failure as a consequence of previous top management, particularly
the CEOs and the Board as the economic part of the game was underestimated there was not a
proper communication about the budget and costs, revenues were overestimated, prolonged
period of the festival (from 9 to 13 days) did not attracted enough spectators, an excessive
amount of free-tickets was issued at the expenses of standard tickets, festival in-house


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productions were too expensive. By and large, financial accounting and management control had
not been a priority for festival management and no one had an overview. Even worse, the festival
had broken the law regarding selection of suppliers. All these problems had not been known until
suppliers and creditors started to demand payment. Hence, it was a surprising august morning for
a very new festival CEO, who was meanwhile appointed, to recognize this fact and witnessed that
the total loss of the festival in 2008 was enumerated to NOK 6.871 mil. This economic scandal
gained national attention and threatened festival existence, as discussions about moving the
festival to another town went on. Eventually, this idea was left, debts were paid and the planning
of the upcoming festival year could be initiated. However, this accounting event shed light on
everlasting festivals dilemma: How to build and control a financial stable organization and at the
same time offer unique event experience to audience?
This research inquiry on how he festival controlled is these days brings two main findings. First,
several contextual controls are found as the most influential regarding management control
within the organization. Second, a strong interactivity between these controls has been
recognized and therefore they are better understood within a control package. Time dynamics
together with prior festival performance has a crucial impact on control of the festival and these
two aspects are considered as the main meta-antecedents of festival control.

4.1 Significant festival controls

As the most influential controls in the festival have been identified as administrative controls, i.e.
organizational and governance structure, policies and procedures, along with planning controls
and cybernetic controls, i.e. budgets, measures and hybrid measures. Reward and incentive
controls contribute to the total picture of controls together with cultural controls.

4.1.1 Administrative controls

The organizational structure is sketched in Figure 1. The highest control authority is the Board,
consisting of two representatives from the state level and three local members who act on
behalf of local municipality, region and the Church. The Board sets the strategy. The strategic


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objective of the festival is to restore and strengthen the city as a national ecclesiastical and
cultural power center. Thus, the festival is very much anchored in local environment and church
traditions. Other responsibility of the Board is managing a selection procedure of a festival
director (CEO) and once this is done, regular supervisions and communication with him/her is
established. Operational responsibilities fall on festival director shoulders. In other words, the
executive power is in festival directors hands. The CEO can influence the organizational
structure into large extent as it is his responsibility to choose right people who help him with
accomplishment of the strategy. Furthermore, the CEO chooses every years festival theme and
decides on the planning process of the festival, including program choice and length of such
procedure. The second layer of the organizational structure includes all main characters in the
organization CFO, a marketing and sponsor manager, a deputy CEO and at the same time a
program manager and an event manager. Although, the event manager is formally subordinate of
the program manager, he belongs to the close circle of festival managers as he is responsible for
building up the organization that runs the festival in practice during festival days. He takes care
of security, stage, technical equipment, quality check and other practical necessities of more than
200 events. For that reason, he is also very much involved in HR process as most of the human
resources in the organization, particularly during the festival, falls to his area of responsibility.
Third and fourth level of organizational structure covers staff helping the manager in the front
line and managers of specific projects, for example, a manger of events for youth and families,
managers of church events, venue managers, a volunteers manager and a manager of a special
program. diversification-literature overview Finally, the fifth level of the organization includes
essential workforce volunteers and security workers.


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Figure 1: Festivals organizational structure (based on compilation of eight drawings of the interviewees)

The governance structure is partly influenced by the organizational structure, and partly by the
natural development of the festival as the festival is well-established with tradition dated back to
1950s. Particularly, economic crisis of the festival in 2008 threatened festival existence. This
event was caused by insufficient control and managerial decisions of the Board. Thus, much
higher involvement of the Board in this matter is obvious these days as one of the interviewees
PSKI? Stine? Iris? somewhere
The organizational and governance means of control were strengthened after the crisis year. The
festival moved from the collective way of sharing responsibility to a structured governance
according to the given field of competence and responsibility, see Figure 1.


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The project manager 2 describes such process as follows:

This is my seventh year in the festival, I worked here under three CEOs and there is a huge
difference in how they have been organizing the festival. The first year I was a part of
management, we were all quite equal. I felt really inside, I took responsibility and I felt I had a
chance to say something and be heard. Then, there was the economic crisis and there was a
change. We had a new leader. She got together with her people who were good at economy. They
wanted to do some structure in the festival and they made this this is the board, this is CEO,
this is management and you are out there (the fourth level, see Figure 4). I felt that everything
was decided overheads. There was no communication. The leader did not know what I was doing
at all. It was so clear that this is the management of the festival (the third level) and others, there
was a fence between all the people in full time and rest. Of course, I see why they wanted to have
a structure and organizing. Thats part of the economical control, but there is also very much
psychology in leading and if you do this so drastically (first, second, third level, see Figure 1) to
people who are out here (fourth level) and it is many of us, we dont care thats a result.
The project manager of volunteers also expresses her confusion regarding new governance within
the festival:
When I came here, it was a mess, the biggest mass Ive ever experienced. I used probably five
months to understand my position and positions of others that surrounded me.
The structure is negatively perceived also by the project manager 2 (the third level of
organizational structure), however understanding of relationships differs:
I don't like this hierarchical structure. I want to have a flat structure. That's what I like with this
organization - my role is no more important than other project managers role. I like this, we're
all on the same page, in a way. Then, it's more like a circle, like disk world. That's how I see


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The division of labor and tasks across the organization is quite visible also towards the Board as
many of the interviewees belonging to the middle management confirm that the Board is not that
much important for their work. However, the situation is different for the close circle of
managers, as event manager says:
Yes, of course, all board members are important. Ive talked to them in informal settings, but
Ive also been to at least one board meeting, where we were asked to have some points of view.
Although that the new hierarchical structure demarked boundaries of responsibility and in some
cases blocked communication within the organization, it also facilitates enormous amount of
needed freedom and flexibility to all project managers. This creative aspect of festival managers
work is however possible to control only with limited instruments and in a way can lead to
dangerous consequences. One of the interviewees explains:
Since the festival is organized more or less like this, I understood kind of early in my
engagement, that I can do it in my own way. I am kind of independent, everyone else is in sort of
way working with program, economy, tickets. That's not the part of my work at all. So, I am kind
of a lonely bird down here. If I am moving out or getting sick before the festival, I don't think
anyone could have taken my responsibility. I would say that you are organizing a very big risk
here, because nobody takes his responsibility and nobody knows his plans or his thoughts.
Everyone is sitting on their own hills, I would say.
Another project manager adds:
It does not really present a big problem. There are very little sick-leaves. If you are sick for two
months, then, yes, of course. But if you have a week or several days, then, you can pick up
afterwards. It's not like ooops - you should have done that! And if you see that you can't manage,
you ask.
To overcome this challenge, evaluation reports are made by some of the project managers,
though on voluntarily basis. These reports serve for the future course of managerial work and are
incorporated into the overall evaluation report:


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In late August or September, we got an evaluation. That's quiet big one, we put out a scheme, a
paper, we collect it, we have a meeting and we're more detailed also with the closest persons.
the event manager
The overall evaluation is therefore based mainly on accounting information:
All information on all the concerts, all the events, all the viewers, visitors, audience, how many
on that and that event, how many sold tickets, how many sponsors tickets, how many volunteers
are gathered. To sum up the whole festival in numbers. So it's ready for the budget application in
January. Thats one big report. the project manager 1
Another procedure that decreases the risk of the creative part of the project work, again employed
only by some of the interviewees, rests on sharing own competence with others:
Now I am trying to teach everyone to do the own contracts with artists. the project manager 1.

The venue manager elaborates:

Last year, and that was a good idea, I had an assistant. We're going to do it again this year
because there is a lot, even though it's a small venue, it's a lot of things to do back and forth and
picking up things. This is a volunteer plus - with more responsibility.
More sophisticated tasks are however difficult to push through, as the project manager of
volunteers explains on the case of a new app:
It would have been much easy for me if they [project managers] could import their needs into it,
but we have a big Excel mania. Thats an issue.
There are few policies and procedures that control the festival. The highest rank in operational
terms has perhaps HMS (Health, Environment, Security) procedures. Liabilities stemming from
HMS are further operationalized by the event manager:


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I must not forget what I've been doing all day. It's making sketches to get permits and license to
do things. You have to have loads of permits to do things. I use some hours to get these from the
police, from the fire department, from the city management, from all the people and offices we're
working with. They are good people and we have a good cooperation with them. I really
appreciate that, but of course, there are some hours to get it done.
Formal procedures also shape the governance structure as every fifth year a new CEO is hired
and the direction of the festival can slightly change.

4.1.2 Planning controls

Evaluation procedures within administrative controls support next years planning phase of the
festival as dos and donts of the festival are taken into consideration.
Three planning terms have been identified: long-term (very new as the new CEO decides to plan
for 18 months instead of 12 months), middle-term (12 months) and short-term (usually 6
months). The length of planning phase varies according to the position of the project manager in
the organizational structure and type of the project she is responsible for.
Middle-term planning starts just after the festival is finished as general ideas for next festival year
that correlate to the theme are developed. Short-term planning starts about 6 month prior the
festival. Managers who operate on short-term planning must get together their general thoughts,
plans and ideas for final realization of the project relatively quickly, because the detailed
planning of the festival must be started within two or three months. Therefore, managers who use
middle-term planning control have larger room for manoeuvring and adjusting their plans to
reality. Program manager 1 illustrates:
For me, it's no stress here. I have a long time... It's not the hardest period. Hardest is a wrong
word Before you get everybody on board, we don't sleep so well. We're searching for good
people, you're getting knows that they are not able to come, we have to change....


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On the other hand, even some of those who plan middle-term cant enjoy such luxury. The event
manager enlightens the issue:
I've worked three years with this festival and it's a lot of thing that we cannot control as good
ourselves, as we should like to do. When we shall book things, it's often hard to book the artist as
early as we should like as an organization because of the international management, the booking
agencies in London, in the USA. They want to wait, and wait and wait, they want to see where
they can get most money... We thought we have an artist, we were quiet sure, the big
international one and he didnt come to us at all! Theyve planned different trails and it became
an Asia tour at the same time Thats how it works.
We should have like that our program was finished a lot earlier. Definitely, I would like that,
because when I know what will come and how they will have it arranged, I can have better time
to arrange, but if it's very close up to the festival, I am very short That's not up to us to decide,
it's up to international and national booking agencies. We have to accept that and have a good
flow and speed up the tempo, when we're getting closer to the festival.
The manager responsible for the program for family and children reflects her planning challenges
as such:
Many artists see summer as their working period, when they travel from the festival to the
festival and work and play on tour, while artists who perform for children follow the school year
and have holidays, when the audience have holidays. So, the biggest challenge is that many of
them have vacation.
As the head-hunting planning process is finished, contracting and detailed planning follows. The
festival contracts all performers, those who are paid even those who are not paid. Contracting the
biggest projects is a priority, however all project managers try to have been done with contracts
for own sake about two months prior the festival. Detailed planning covers many activities:
There are so many small things to do! It starts with writing all these small texts about artists
and whats going to happen for festival newspapers and for the webpage. Its organizing of


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travelling, hotel, eating, and transport car from there to there. Its also getting costumes for the
projects says project manager 2.
Planning and detailed planning are crucial form of ex-ante control and prepare festival managers
for the festival week. A good planning together with morning meetings are the most utilized
instruments that secures the management of festival days.
Everybody starts with the meeting early in the morning. Then, we go to our projects. I always
have a plan for the day: when are my guests arriving, checking with the hotel, checking with the
people regarding food and everything, meeting them [artists] early say hello... Check out
everything, thats important for me, I like to have everything under control, myself. I dont trust
that everything is under control. says program manager 1.
The project manager 2 confirms:
I try to have an overview. Everything is planned too detailed, so I know whats going to happen
within the next 10 minutes. I know that something is happening there and there, because its on
my schedule.

4.1.3 Cybernetic controls

While planning the festival, an awareness of the budget, especially costs is necessary. The
management control system, maintained by CFO, keeps eye on the costs of the venues and
projects. The event manager PSK who is also involved in budgeting and financial controlling
If you do not focus on accounting and budget numbers, and make good accounts and realistic
estimates of the budget, then, its not right. So it has certainly been important to me. It doesnt
mean that you follow the budget constantly, but you can certainly put considerable effort into it.
A budget is the dynamic, so the change. There's the cost side, which I represent. I am expenditure
for the festival, me and those who I lead, but thats what Ive been hired for, to look after... At the
same time, there are changes (movements) in accounting, but these can be predicted into some


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extent. Unexpected things may pop up, so one has to go into the budget and try to adjust it. Then,
we have to do a massive review of all accounting records.
As the festival enjoys public funding, one can envisage that the revenue side of the festival is
perhaps not that relevant. The situation is however different. Both parts of the budgets are under
control, however control of revenues is not that easy as in case of costs:
There is a huge risk and it must be. We have to compare revenue numbers with previous years,
and we are better at that each year. However, there will be some xs weather, temperature,
some xs we arent able to identify, so you will end up with no understanding why more people
havent come We always have to count that it may be like that, but we have to have these xs as
few as possible. explains the event manager PSK.
Middle managers do operate with cybernetic controls, but the core responsibility rests on the apex
of the festival.
I have my own budget, but CFO is managing all the budgets so in practice I am not responsible
for the budget, but on the paper yes My budget compare to the other ones is so small. I
remember that I sent an e-mail to our CFO asking for 3,000. And she just laughs and says: OK,
do you know that the event manager use 70,000 without asking me? They trust me and that's
probably because of that type of e-mail. Ok, are 3,000 making your position better? Totally OK
for me But I am still asking! I don't think that she has ever said no to me. says the project
manager of volunteers.
The venue manager adds:
I cannot go to the hiring companies - light and sounds and things like that and say: Hi, I need
equipment. I always have to get it confirmed by the event manager if thats ok, I will do it. I
cannot buy things for the festival without getting green light from him. We have a quiet strict


Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner

budget on the things. When we get the riders4 from different performances, concerts then we see
what we have to hire. Then we have to do that and that I have to make sure that the backstage
area always has a coffee, tea, drinks, fruit, chocolate, things like that, just to keep people happy.
Sugar and soft drinks! I have an account in the shop, where I can send my assistant to buy that.
Meals and things like that is something that has been organized in advance by the event manager
and his people and also according to the rider. If a band or an artist has written: "We have to
have a hot meal during the day". Then, we organize it at the local hotel restaurant, so they got
there to eat, because my backstage area is a room a little bit smaller than this. We don't have any
facilities... Of course, you can order pizza...
Budgetary controls and their connection to planning are perceived by the project manager 2 as
Well, of course, it's a manual for me and the thing is to plan very well quite simply. You have to
remember everything, every, every, every small detail. If it's within the budget, there is no
problem, it's just to follow it. Every year I have the buffer if there is something happening. This
always has to be. I am quite secured by the budget.
Cybernetic controls, especially the budget, thus acts as an active management accounting
instrument, albeit not the only one. The event manager introduces the next significant
management control:
To have an overview, we need to be really hands on the all numbers all the time! But of course,
we want to play, thats why we are here. Making big events and nice atmosphere with people, you
have to use common psychology.

4.1.4 Reward and incentive controls

For many managers there are certainly important monetary rewards as they are hired and paid.
However, intrinsic rewards and motivation are perhaps equally important:

Performers request regarding equipment of the stage and necessities for running his show.


Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner

I try to have a good atmosphere, to have a lot of fun. Its important for me to smile and laugh a
lot with my colleagues. I say every working day without laugh is miserable day! If you have fun,
while youre working its unbelievable important, getting a lot of energy! I like to walk around
and make some fun with my colleagues, laughing a little bit, making crazy thingsOtherwise, I
would be really bored. I am not a guy for long processes, thats not my thing. I like to do
something. explains the program manager 1.
Nevertheless, the extent of provided motivation varies, the project manager 1 says:
I didn't think I really need it to do so, because chorus-singers were eager enough, the conductor
wanted to do a good job, soloist knew the festival My colleagues knew this is going to be big
and they were looking forward to the concert. I needed to motivate only on this first night of the
concert. It was not enough time to rehearse. The male choir was tired... We tried to make
everything all right. Go, get some coffee and tea and try to make it as good as possible. So, we
had to motivate through the surroundings and not so much the content.
The most numerous festival workforce, 380 volunteers, is however sometimes difficult to
motivate, the point is made by the project manager of volunteers:
I think that 300 of them are self-motivating and they're happy with their position and happy with
the other volunteers and they are organizing themselves. You always have like 50, probably to
100, who are another group of volunteers. But, I don't think it is my work and it is not possible
for me to motivate them more. Probably they don't like the volunteer work. I can talk to them and
probably 20 of them will be a better volunteer than it was the other day. But I can't make a
revolution here because we dont have sanctions. If they arent coming to work or maybe they are
rude If I am giving them a call and they arent picking up the phone What should I do? Run
after them?
Project manager 2 has possibilities to motivate volunteers bit more:
I try to help them to be aware of all the positive sides of being volunteers: remind them - this is
excellent for you, you're networking now. These small reminders and also its very important to


Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner

ask: How are you today? Is your day ok? Can I help you with anything? What have you
experienced today? Something new? Something exciting? Have you met any exciting people? I
think that caring is very important. There are so many things. It's a balance between giving
volunteers tasks that are challenging and also not so difficult. I think it's very important to show
people what your volunteers, what your people, are doing and not taking the glory yourself. It's
so important. I really try to focus on the fantastic work all the volunteers do. I tell people about it
all the time, I really think they deserve that I do it. After all, they are working voluntarily and
they are doing a fantastic job, so it's important to tell in media, to audience, to friends. There are
so many specific things within motivating, these are some of them.
The venue manager provides his perspective on motivation:
I like people around me to be focused on that everything should go as scheduled, to keep the
artists happy, to keep the audience happy. I try to motivate them. We're there to make their
evening complete. If any motivation that's that. I also have to be strict once a while as well. I
don't like people who take over the show. I don't think I am authoritarian, I am not like that. If I
think that people stepping over the line, then I stop it. I like people to have a good time.

4.1.5 Cultural controls

Rather than one sort of strong cultural control, hybrid cultural controls have been identified.
These decisive cultural controls have been explored in the festival: cultural clan controls,
professional clan controls and organizational clan controls.
Cultural clan controls convey the passion to culture. The project manager 2 explains:
I am head over heels in love with culture. The best thing is an opportunity to create something
that moves people. To be creative, thats my strong personal need to be creative and when I have
an opportunity to be that and at the same time I see it moves people - that makes me happy!
That's fantastic. If I have a job that was the same from nine to four every year, I would be
completely crazy.
Another point of view:


Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner

The best thing is to be a part of it. I work with a lot of nice people. I meet a lot of nice people.
I am being appreciated for what I do during the festival by the management. Overall, it's nice
week, a lot of work. Maybe this year, I should have this step-counter on me, I've been talking
about it every year now, I seem to forget to count how many kilometers I actually walk during the
festival. I think it's a lot. It also keeps you fit. You don't have to pay thousands of crowns to go to
the fitness center.
I am in this is because I love being a part of the cultural industry. I feel I have a lot in common
with the people, the artists, with the rest and of course, you can't like all the music, you can't like
everything. But in general I feel a home around cultural events. I think I would be bored to death
if I should punch at an office at 8 o'clock and punch out again at 3:30. Every day for the rest of
my life, I would die. confirms the venue manager, who has been engaged in many cultural
projects since 1976.
Project manager 1 also contributes with her point of view:
The best thing on my job is that I am able to work with such a big festival. It's all the music
genres, different artists and bands... I am back to where I started with music. I started playing
when I was four. My father is musician. It always has been a part of my life. I've never got to be a
musician myself, so organizing and administration is the second best.
As festival managers enjoy a large deal of creativity and independence, they however also seek
for professional support. Thus, professional clan controls have been traced.
I can take my competences from the festival I worked for. I think I can actually do more or less
the same in other festivals, because every festival has a volunteer manager and we are doing
almost the same everywhere. Actually now, we established a group on Facebook, that's a group
with four different volunteer managers. We have the same issues and this is probably a solution
for this festival. Everyone is handling different sets of issues, but, we down here (see level 4,
Figure 1), we have our community and society. the project manager of volunteers
Explanation of professional clan controls is given by the project manager 2 who is in contact with
other professionals in the network, while she is looking for the artists.


Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner

I choose artists based on experience within the music industry and based on - I know someone,
who knows someone, who knows someone... I choose them also based on research on the Internet
and I call other festivals and say - who is your best artist? I want him, tomorrow!
It's a lot of work to find best people and it's not like.... I also contact some organizations which
work with crafts and so on to find more interesting things. It's a combination: some luck, some
networking, some experience, and some research.
Finally, organizational clan controls have been identified at the top of the organization, among
close circle of top managers who share the values, experience and motivation among themselves
and with others within the organization.
Anybody here, almost anybody, I can turn to Its good atmosphere here and people are
helpful. the program manager 1
Whenever, there is anything, I talk to the event manager says the venue manager.
The good atmosphere is supported by regular meetings every Tuesday or everyday morning
meetings during the festival, open office doors and common lunches throughout the year:
We have common lunch break and that's very popular and it's talk of everything else than the
festival. illustrates the event manager

4.2 Festival management controls as a package

As previous section of this paper indicates, there is a strong connectivity and overlapping among
the controls. Thus, similarly to Malmi and Brown (2008) theoretical framework, these controls
are best understood as a package.
As the event manager explains all his activities, plans and manuals throughout the year, he
pointed out that all these actions are embedded into the Wheel of the Year:


Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner

We call it Wheel of the Year5 with all this It's much more detailed, it's quite logical. When the
festival is over, you have evaluation and start planning for the next one. When some plans are
landed, you go on to contracts, which venues, which people are going to manage the different
venues... What we need of technical equipment, what we need of room for offices, what we need
of cars to transport and so on.
Thereby, the model of festival controls is mirrored by Figure 2. It reflects continuum - there is no
end and the beginning within the controls. They are overlapping and equally important, though at
some points a year, they are more (deep blue colour) or less (white colour) dominant/used.

Figure 2: The Wheel of the Year: Management controls as a package

Ive never seen that one, so I cannot compare Figure 2 with the one they have. The presented model is built on interviews and

observations that have been carried out.


Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner

Administration controls shape the organization and are extremely used during the festival week,
marketing and communication manager explains:
Perhaps the biggest challenge we have is that during the 50 weeks of the year we are 9 people,
while for one week we are 40 people in the staff and 380 volunteers. It's one thing to have them
on board and other thing to communicate with them. It is easy to forget to communicate to
project managers or those who arrive on short projects. Last but not least, its challenge to
involve them, because they are students, working for other organizations, so they are here
actually for very short time to establish a good marketing strategy and communication strategy.
We really want to be bigger to have more long-term employees in this festival.
For project manager of volunteers has the festival two faces within a year:
Therefore, we have one organizational structure or a chart or a map for the whole year
organization. We have one organizational structure, during the festival. That was my solution to
organize my head.
Planning controls are in close relation to administrative controls, together with cybernetic
controls. Plans must be done in advance taken into account both external and internal human
resources, constraints given by the budget and previous festival performance. Planning controls
are most used before the festival, from January to the beginning of July, though general plans and
ideas bear managers in mind all the time. Cybernetic controls are less used during the festival, as
everything and everyone was contracted, there is no room to steer the costs more. Therefore, its
mainly revenue side that the festival tries to influence through marketing and sponsors strategy.
Reward and incentive controls are mainly used and enjoyed during the festival and just after the
festival. Its time when all volunteers and core organizational members can enjoy the festival
atmosphere and bear fruit of their all-year work. They motivate themselves by morning meetings
and fabulous newspaper headlines and enjoy positive words of mouth that are spread among


Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner

You don't experience it when you sit in your office during the festival. You have to go out, you
have to meet people, you have to go to the concerts, you have to go to visit lectures and see what have you been planning for 51 weeks, you have to see the results! That's very nice, I am a
person if I go to the concert I feel little bit guilty that I am not working, but I am working! I just
have to flip my brain around and say: this is also work, this is experiencing what the festival is
all about. The cultural bit is the whole in a way. says the project manager 1
Finally, cultural controls are steadily used throughout the year, as they set the reasons of being on
festival board both for single festival managers and volunteers.
The main external factor time, rationalizes intensity within the controls. Through such
dynamics, we can see how single controls become more utilized than others. Time as a seasonal
aspect of the industry is also a decisive control instrument for external partners, particularly
international and national artistic agencies that try to reach most of it and receive as many
financial benefits as possible. Time also play role towards the audience, the changeful artistic
taste of the audience keep program managers busy and often sleepless. Finally, time perspective
also influences the date of the festival, as the festival is traditional and well-established it seems
to be nave idea to move it into other week of the year.
Concluding remarks made a project manager of volunteers:
The festival is organized the given date. That is the main goal for everyone here. Everyone is
more or less running that direction. Time and money are only shared goals in whole of the
festival and without that it would just fell apart.

5. Discussion


Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner

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Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

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An example of the interview guide on management controls within the festival
Those systems, rules, practices, values and other activities management put in place in order to
direct employee behaviour (collaborative parties) should be called management controls. Malmi and
Brown (2008, p. 290)
The Project Manager
Structure of the interview

Reason of the section

0. Introduction

To inform about research and the research

question, to establish first connection
between the interviewer and the interviewee

1. Long-term planning

Focus is on crucial planning phase, when


program is created, long-term => long-term

planning controls.

2. Reward/compensation

Trying to find out who receive motivation of


project managers within the projects and

Part 1

how is this motivation done.

3. Action-planning controls

Follows long-term planning controls section

with the aim to find out how are projects
managed during festival days.

4. Administrative controls

Investigates the role of internal processes

5. Cybernetic controls

Overview of management controls and their

connections, takes into consideration also
economical controls - budgets

6. Cultural controls (Work as

The aim is to find out into which extent play

a status or fulfillment? )


Part 2

values role in project managers and

volunteers work.


Time, Money and Control: Use of Management Controls in a Festival

Eva Lechner

0. Introduction
0. Introduction of:


the research project,

and the way how the interview will be conducted and treated afterwards.

1. Can you tell me a little bit about your backg